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Sa-hogin? Sa-whogin? Sa-hog-gin? Who knows how you’re supposed to pronounce it, all we know is that it lurks in the dark depths and wants to eat your face off. Gracing the cover of the newest adventure, The Ghosts of Saltmarsh, we are hoping this iconic “Sea Devil” enjoys a long overdue renaissance.

As we continued to research these creatures, we found an incredible amount of background, lore and stats. It is one of the most detailed creatures in OD&D and AD&D. In 2e, the Sahuagin gets its own entire book that is over 100 pages. While we will not be able to cover every aspect of the Sahuagin in this article, we hope to provide the key items that have made it such a fantastic creature.

Chris will be the first to admit that he never used the Sahuagin outside of when he ran the first two modules of the U series, The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and Danger at Dunwater. Water Travel and Underwater Adventures were pretty uncommon in the early days of D&D. It was a dungeon dive game, not a seafaring game. Countless hours were spent drawing maps, complete with traps, secret doors and monsters. It was a labor of love, but that’s what you had to do back in the early days. Modules were fun, but creating your own maps, full of surprises and wonder was, and has always been, one of the most exciting things outside the game for a DM to do. No one wanted to make a map of an ocean. An island maybe, but getting there was a whole other story. Furthermore, the descriptions of seafaring and underwater adventures in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide was overly complicated in some places and completely vague in other areas (This was a common theme in AD&D).

So let’s jump in to the water and take a look at what makes the Sahuagin one of the most feared and evil underwater creatures in all of D&D.

OD&D - Sahuagin (Devil-Men of the Deep)

No. Appearing: 10-60
Armor Class: 4
Move: 18/30
Hit Dice: 2
% in Lair: 30%
Treasure Type: F & A (from Blackmoor supplement chart)
Damage/Attack: 2-12, or by weapon type / 1 attack per round

First introduced in the Blackmoor (1975) supplement, it’s clear from the beginning the Sahuagin are going to be a big creature in D&D. The description is easily the longest in the supplement, dwarfing the closest description by over a page. The description of them immediately cast them as completely evil creatures; clearly stating that their only friends are giant sharks and that the Sahuagin are sadistic and cannibals. If that doesn’t spell it our for you, it goes on to say that they enjoy torturing their wounded and sickly.

What’s interesting about these creatures is that we get a pretty clear-cut origin story: Gods were fighting over the material plane and they melted the ice caps and flooded the plane, just like the whole Noah story and how we are doing it again in present time. Neutral and Law gods created sea elves and mermen. Chaos gods, well, they wanted evil incarnate, hence the Sahuagin. The description even goes onto say that while comparable creatures have aspects of evil, the Sahuagin have them all. Good job chaos gods!

Blackmoor, 1975 TSR Inc.

The Sahuagin in OD&D look like, well, fish monsters. Big old fish eyes, a mouth full of hundreds of razor sharp teeth and long, pointy ears. The ears may have been indication that they have some background as elves, but it could also just be coincidence. They have two arms which end in two pincer like protrusions and webbed feet which provide balance when on solid ground and assist in swimming. Finally, they have a simple scaly tail, which helps with movement and direction plus acts as a giant club.

Their ears are very sensitive as they can pick up underwater sound within a range of ten miles. Which seems like they are constantly having a headache, wouldn’t that much noise overload the Sahuagin? Maybe that’s why they are grumpy. It goes on to further clarify that: “sensitive ears that can pick up underwater noise as slight as a boat's oars cutting through the water at ranges of ten miles.” Not sure how they filter all that noise out so that they don’t go insane. Though, interestingly they point out that the ears of a Sahuagin can’t pick up on any noise of any swimming creature… so not sure what to make of that.

Moving on to their eyes, which are also extremely sensitive, they can see up to a half mile underwater. Bright light will negatively affect them, but it’s vague on how much. It’s does say that their eyes are so sensitive that it keeps them 100 feet underwater and they will only go up further up and onto land when it’s night time or stormy. No sunny days at the beach for these guys.

While the Sahuagin primarily attacks with weapons, when disarmed they get a total of 6 different attacks to choose from. Their claws act like pincers, and they each do 2-12 points of damage. Their feet can grab a creature and then act as claws which can also do to 2-12 points of damage each while the creature is grappled. The teeth are razor sharp and can be used to grab on or render flesh can also do 2-12 points of damage. Finally the Sahuagin can attack with its tail. Just to mix it up, the tail acts like “a pile driver-like punch similar to that wielded by a giant (club damage times two)”. This attack also does 2-12, just so we don’t get confused. Though, according to the chart, they only get 1 attack per round… so really this is all just for flavor.

The Sahuagin don’t use their “natural attacks” often, as they are usually armed with a poison tipped trident and a barbed net. The Trident has a deadly poison on it, although the description does not describe what kind of poison or what type of damage it does. The net will trap the character and the barbs will also do damage, how much we are once again left to wonder… but my money is on 2-12. Being the intelligent creatures that they are, they will attempt to trap the character in their net, and then attack with the trident from a safe distance Once the character is bloodied, the Sahuagin’s only friends, those pesky and angry sharks, will go into a blood frenzy and attack. If you find yourself in this situation, its probably about now you should draw up a new character.

The sahuagin travel in large groups, and have communities of thousands of sahuagin where they will bring back their still-live prey. This is so they can feed on them later, torture them or hunt them down at a more convenient time. They place their captives in cells that are specially equipped for air breathing creatures. Enjoy the air while you can, because you are most likely going to be used as entertainment in short order. Characters may have to fight Sahuagin warriors, sharks, or be pitted against one another; all in the hopes of providing a great spectacle for the captors. The twisted bastards have also been know to let their prisoners “escape”, only to be hunted down and killed in a very painful way for sport. Hopefully you have something to get you out of there fast, because you’re most likely 500-1000 feet underwater and sharks have been known to swim fast.

Finally, our last tidbit is that there is one king that rules over all the Sahuagin, and he has nine princes to help him rule as he sees fit. Anyone can challenge the king for the right to become king, but the king is usually extremely strong and mutated, all Sahuagin have a 1% chance of being born with four arms, so you better be sure that you know what you are doing. The strongest usually win, but it needs to be in conjunction with being smart and cunning. Oh and if you lose they kill you, probably torturing you to death before they do.

1e - Sahuagin (Sea Devils)

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 20-80
Armor Class: 5
Move: 12"/24”
Hit Dice: 2+2
% in Lair: 25%
Treasure Type: Individuals N; I, F, Q(X IO), X, Y in lair
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: By weapon type
Special Attacks: See below
Special Defenses: See below
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: M
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

U2 - Danger at Dunwater, 1982 TSR Inc.

With over a page dedicated to it abilities, lore and how they operate, it was clear to me that this creature was one that the creators intended to be used often and in multiple ways. The problem with this was that the game was still mainly a dungeon dive game, and not many people thought about sea travel and fighting monsters such as the Sahuagin, Kraken, or Ixitxachitl (not making that up). Outside of the U series of Modules, AD&D had little to no usage of the Sahuagin, but the Sahuagin does premiere in the first Monster Manual (1977) so that’s a plus!

Known also as the devil men of the deep or seadevils in 1e, these creatures live deep in the ocean, but only in the warm depths of the water in the tropics. Fresh water and light are despised by the Sahuagin, with bright light being harmful them. Their hatred for the surface dwellers cannot be understated, and they venture onshore at night in raiding parties to plunder and destroy humanoid villages that are by the shoreline. Sahuagin have the ability to breathe air for up to 4 hours while on the surface, making their raids on land quick, cruel and efficient.

During these raids, as well as when fighting under the water, the Sahuagin have a variety of weapons at their disposal. Most Sahuagin carry a trident, a net (for underwater only) and dagger, while some have a spear and a select few carry crossbows. If they are stripped of their weapons, the Sahuagin are still a creature to be feared. Not only does their scaly bodies provide them with a natural AC of 5, but they can attack with the claws on their hands (1-2 damage), taloned legs (1-4 damage), and teeth (1-4 damage). When unarmed, they can attack between 3-5 times per round (depending on leg placement). This gives an unarmed Sahuagin the potential to do 16 points of damage! Weirdly, if they have a weapon they only make one attack with the damage of the weapon (typically 1d6). There is no mention of being able to combine melee weapon and unarmed attacks, which is a shame as being able to bite and dagger would be pretty fearsome.

The only underwater friends that the Sahuagin have are sharks, which hasn’t changed from when they were first introduced. The sharks will follow simple one or two word commands, and I’m willing to bet that the command word is usually “kill”. Other than sharks, everyone else that lives in the ocean pretty much loathes the Sahuagin. The Monster Manual goes out of it ways to state the even the evil ixitxachitl, think manta rays that are clerics, hate the Sahuagin. When one of the evilest creatures of the sea hates you, you know you’re a bad, bad man… fish thing.

Social structure is important and extremely organized as they are lawful evil, much like the devils they worship. They have a king who rules over the entire race with 9 princes, much like the devils, who control fiefdoms. The king’s location is shrouded in mystery, as he is rumored to live in a massive underwater city built in a deep canyon. Don’t try to find it, as their are supposedly over 5000 of them there, and that doesn’t even include the King’s nobles, guards, queens and of course, concubines.

The Monster Manual states that each prince rules small group of Sahuagin, but I think small is a relative term. It says that each lair contains 1 baron, 9 guards, 30-120 females, up to 40 hatchlings, and up to 80 eggs. It goes on to say a band of Sahuagin will contain one chieftain and 1 lieutenant for every 10 members of the group. The number of appearing are stated that 2-80 Sahuagin can be found together at one time. So this means: one band of Sahuagin could contain 80 members, the party would then be looking at 80 “fighters” (2+2 HD), 8 lieutenants (3+3 HD), and 1 chieftain (4+4 HD). Let’s hope you swim really fast, cause no one wants to mess with that.

In 1e, the history of the Sahuagin is shrouded in mystery. One theory of their origins is that they were created by evil gods. A particularly evil nation of humans was spared by lawful evil gods, and from the deluge that came upon the material plane a long long time ago; then the lawful neutral gods created the sea elves and the mermen as a balance to the Sahuagin. The tritons, one of the many mortal enemies of the Sahuagin, believe that they are distantly related to sea elves, and were created by the drow.

U3 - The Final Enemy, 1983 TSR Inc.

And finally, we get to where the Sahuagin truly became popular: the U Series. This series of adventures were released by the UK branch of TSR (sort of, not going into it) and showcases the Sahuagin quite heavily in the first three adventures: U1, U2 & U3. These adventures are one of the more iconic modules for D&D and are responsible for raising the popularity of the seadevils.

2e - Sahuagin

Climate/Terrain: Temperate/Salt Water
Frequency: Uncommon
Organization:
Triba
Activity Cycle: Night
Diet: Carnivore
Treasure: N (I, O, P, Q (x10), X, Y
Intelligence: High (13-14)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
No. Appearing: 20-80
Armor Class: 5
Movement: 12, Swimming 24
Hit Dice:
2+2
THAC0:
19
No. of Attacks:
1 (or see description)
Damage/Attack: 1-2/1-2/1-4/1-4/1-4 or weapon type
Special Attacks: See Description
Special Defenses: See Description
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M (6’), some L (9’)
Morale:
Steady
XP Value: 175 /Lieutenant: 270/ Chieftain: 420/Priestess: 650/Baron: 975/Prince: 2,000

Monstrous Manual, 1993 TSR Inc.

Where to start. It originally looked like there we some tweaks here and there and the rest of the Sahuagin stayed the same from 1e, but for one small book… The Sea Devils (1997) a monstrous arcana book over 100 pages long on just the Sahuagin. I mean seriously, that’s a ton of information and there is no way we can get into everything unless you want the article to be 100 pages long and put you to sleep. We are going to consolidate a lot of that information, but if you really want to learn about the Sahuagin in that much detail, it can be found here on DMs Guild.

With a book that long, there are a ton of things to go over… but most of it deals with more exact details about the history of Sahuagin in 1e. Instead, let’s look at a few new things for our evil fish folk.

Origins
While the story of the Sahuagin being created by gods during a great flood still exists in 2e, it is only mentioned as a myth on their creation, and not even the mostly likely one to have occurred. We also get the first mention of the Great Shark god Sekolah; it’s made clear though that no one actually knows the true origins of the Sahuagin, but that Sekolah played a part in spreading them through our the worlds in the Material Plane.

The Sea Devils, 1997 TSR Inc.

Other stories include those that speak of the Sahuagin being, once again, descendants of human or elves, but not through the demented will of the evil gods, but through time and evolution. It’s interesting, and also very weird, that the book makes specific reference to the Sahuagin’s larynx being similar to that of humans and elves. Apparently that is unique to the Sahuagin since no other fish or marine species have one. The Sahuagin’s air bladder resembles the lungs of the elves, even though the Sahuagin cannot breathe air. It’s important to note that these similarities are to elves and not sea elves. As the sea elves came about fairly quickly as a race; the Sahuagin and Sea Elves physiology are quite different.

Of course, Elves don’t like this one bit and reject the notion that such vile creatures could have been somehow related to them, even noting that the drow are less evil than the Sahuagin. The famous elf, Tiguran Maremrynd, strongly argues that because the sea devils only take pleasure in slaughter, that resembles the dwarven race and not elves… Which goes to show you how much elves hate dwarves we guess. Unfortunately there is nothing to support this fact and it seems ill suited to think that the sea devils are distant underwater relatives of dwarves.

Magic
Most Sahuagin hate and fear magic so much so that they will kill anything, except one of their priestesses, that displays magical abilities. This means that the moment a wizard casts a spell, they target that wizard above even the most fearsome of warriors. This hatred of magic stems from a superstition, though many surface dwellers wrongly think its cause they don’t understand magic.

The Sahuagin regard environmental catastrophes such as volcanic eruptions and sea quakes-as supernatural events whose origins lie in the primordial depths. The sea devils know magic is a manifestation of supernatural power, and as such they automatically treat it and anyone who can wield it with suspicion.

The Sahuagin know that those who possess magic can have unpredictable power and are quick to murder them before that power could be turned on to them. Furthermore, they only view creatures with magical abilities not given to them by Sekolah with suspicion… and thus anyone that isn’t a Sahuagin as suspicious and creatures that should be murdered immediately. Though, if they happen to get your +1 dagger… well, magical items in their hand isn’t a bad thing cause it’s theirs.

Technology
Finally, and most surprisingly, the Sahuagin have the knowledge of metal smithing. The Sahuagin possess all the knowledge and skills to work metal. Sahuagin build their forges in air filled spaces inside royal cities as only the king is allowed to have a forge. He uses it for mostly private work since many of weapons made of metal have been refurbished by the sea devils after slaughtering their foes. Most Sahuagin blacksmiths are Malenti, since they have greater tolerance for the open air. Malenti are therefore some of the most valuable subjects to the king. The rest of the population doubly despises them for genetic mutations and being those who work in the heat, smoke, and flame of the forge.

Monstrous Manual, 1993 TSR Inc.

A quick note on the Malenti - they are Sahuagin that look exactly like seas elves while retaining some of the abilities of the Sahuagin. They are usually fed to the sharks upon their birth, but if a number of them are born in the same year, one will be allowed to live so they can work in the forge, or to serve as a spy for the sea devils, as they can easily live in the sea elves communities without detection.

3e/3.5e - Sahuagin

Size/Type: Medium Monstrous Humanoid (Aquatic)
Hit Dice: 2d8+2 (11hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), swim 60 ft.
Armor Class: 16 (+1 Dex, +5 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+4
Attack: Talon +4 melee (1d4+2) or trident +4 melee (1d8+3) or heavy crossbow +3 ranged (1d10/19-20)
Full Attack: Trident +4 melee (1d8+3) and bite +2 melee (1d4+1); or 2 talons +4 melee (1d4+2) and bite +2 melee (1d4+1); or heavy crossbow +3 ranged..

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Artifacts are a great way to make your player’s character feel like a God. Usually artifacts are items of incredible power and they give abilities that your characters could only dream of. They’ve been around since 1e, but the focus has moved away from a long list of artifacts with rich histories and detailed descriptions, to a smaller number of items (still with amazing backgrounds), with the focus on letting DMs be able to create their own artifacts, relic and intelligent items. That’s pretty cool. But let’s go back and take a look at some of these amazing items throughout the editions from 1e an see how they influenced the artifacts of today.

While we would love to talk about all of the artifacts and their amazing history in DnD, but… that would create such a long article, that I’m not sure we could ever finish writing it. So instead, we have grabbed a few of our favorite artifacts from the various editions and want to share them with you! Hopefully you can throw a few of these in your own campaigns!

Artifacts in AD&DMachine of Lum the Mad

Perhaps this strange device was built by gods long forgotten and survived the eons since their passing, for it is incredibly ancient and of workmanship unlike anything known today. The Machine was used by Baron Lum to build an empire, but what has since become of this ponderous mechanism none can say. Legends report that it has 60 levers, 40 dials, and 20 switches (but only about one-half still function). Singly or in combination, these controls will generate all sorts of powers and effects.

The Machine is delicate, intricate, bulky and very heavy (5,500 pounds). It cannot be moved normally, and any serious jolt will set off and then destroy 1-4 functions of the artifact which can never be restored. It has a booth of a size suitable for 4 man-sized creatures (4' X 5' X 7') to stand inside, and if a creature or object is placed therein and the Machine's controls are worked, something might happen.

You must matrix the 60 levers, 40 dials, and 20 switches, showing which will perform functions. You may apt to include powers and/or effects of your own devising: 15 Minor Benign Powers, 15 Major Benign Powers, 10 Minor Malevolent Powers, 10 Major Malevolent Powers, 15 Prime Powers, 5 Side Effects.

Book of Artifacts, 1993 TSR Inc.

There are so many cool artifacts from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide and it was incredibly difficult to pick. But let’s start here, with Lum the Mad. The cool thing about the artifacts in AD&D is that since the game was in its infancy, Gygax and crew could make up whatever they wanted with whatever background they felt like, and the Machine of Mad the Lum is a great example of that… as well as being one of our favorites.

Upon first reading the description of this artifact, you can picture a big organ like musical device, but realize that wasn’t what they were describing at all. Remember, this was 1979. I think it was based more on the first giant computers, with a large phone booth attached to it for people to stand in. Looking at it with today’s eyes, I envision some sort of crazy steampunk machine, or a mini version of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.

However you picture it, this machine must be huge. It has a ridiculous number of levers, dials and switches and, as stated, is stupid heavy. To put into perspective, that is approximately the same weight as your average Large Truck or SUV. So how the hell do you move this thing? Going through the AD&D spell list isn’t much help. You can’t levitate it (100 lbs per wizard level), and even if you could, you couldn’t push it. You can’t teleport it, since that spell also has a weight limit you’d never reach (250 lbs + 150 lbs for each level over 10th). It’s a nope on any of the Bigby’s hand spells in AD&D too.

Even making friends with a giant to have them help you move it wouldn’t work, although you could get 3 of them to help you but… giants aren’t know for their delicate nature, and as described above, it breaks easily. I guess you could cast wish and have it transported to a location… and that seems like the only real way to do it without risking the machine.

The list of powers that the Machine has are quite extensive, and the DM had even more options available to him considering there are 48,000 combinations you could come up with based on the number of levels, dials, and switches. The DMG says that only about half of them work, but that’s sill 24,000 combinations.

A number that big makes my head hurt, so lets just go with the 70 the DMG lists. You and three of your closest friends stand in the “phone booth”, while someone outside starts flipping switches. The right combination of switches and levers may bestow upon them great powers, or can screw you over. Hopefully you have a manual on which dials to turn or you could end up losing all interest in sex (Minor Malevolent Effect H, pg. 162 Dungeon Master’s Guide).

So now what. You just found this insanely powerful artifact and you can’t carry it, move it or doing anything really, just use it in the location that it’s in. Here’s the scenario we think makes sense if you were to use this artifact in game. Remember that AD&D was a much different game than the current 5th edition. Most classes capped out at 11th level and it was incredibly hard to get there. Starting around 7th level, players weren’t just wandering around looking for monsters to kill. For many, it was time for you to get a castle, hire some henchmen and wage war on your neighbors. You have heard that a neighboring castle has this magical machine that bestows upon its warriors amazing powers. Time to storm a castle folks! Sure, it will be hard because the machine is there, but we have faith in you!

The Teeth of Dahlver-Nor

 If any cleric was more powerful than the re-nowned Dahlver-Nor, histories do not tell us. The gods themselves gave special powers to him, and these have passed on to others by means of the great relics of Dahlver-Nor, his teeth. Each of the Teeth has some power, and if one character manages to gain a full quarter, half, or all of them, other grand benefits accrue. In order to gain the power of one of these teeth, however, the character must place it into his or her mouth, where it will graft itself in the place of a like missing tooth. The teeth can never be removed once so emplaced short of the demise of the possessor. Their powers/effects are: way too many to list!

This artifact could be the driving source behind someone creating the most epic easter egg hunt campaign ever. There are a total of 32 teeth that you can find with each tooth a power associated to it. They are as follows:

  • 21 Minor Benign Powers

  • 4 Major Benign Powers

  • 4 Minor Malevolent Powers

  • 3 Major Malevolent Powers

But you also get additional powers based on the number or sets of teeth you are able to find:

  • 1-8 teeth - 1 Major Benign Power & 1 Side Effect

  • 9-16 teeth - 1 Major Benign Power & 1 Major Malevolent Power

  • 14-24 teeth - 1 Major Benign Power & 1 Minor Malevolent Power

  • 25-32 teeth - 1 Major Benign Power & 1 Minor Malevolent Power

And just a bit more:

  • 1-16 teeth - 1 Prime Power

  • 17-31 teeth - 1 Prime Power

  • All 32 teeth - 1 Prime Power

All the powers are cumulative. That means if you find all the teeth you can have up to 43 powers! You could create one epic quest to find all 32 teeth, either fighting through hordes of ever more dangerous monsters, and/or have the party fight one superhero BBEG for the final tooth, the one that allows the possessor to cast wish once per day (Prime Power KK, pg. 164 Dungeon Master’s Guide). I’m going to have to talk to Stephen about this. If he ever finishes his Archipelago Island Adventure, this could be the Dump Stat opus.

Now, I will address the elephant in the room… It’s a little gross that to be able to use the tooth, the character must remove a similar tooth, and insert the new tooth into their mouth. But powerful magic sometimes comes with horrible dental hygiene. I’d be more than willing to stick some 1,000 year old guys tooth in my mouth if it gave me the ability to cast Meteor Swarm once a day.

Destroying an AD&D Artifact

Listed in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 163 are ways to destroy an Artifact or Relic. They are as follows:

1. Melt it down in the fiery furnace, pit, mountain, forge, crucible or kiln in which it was created.

2. Drop it into or bury it beneath (1) the Well of Time, (2) the Abyss, (3) the Earth Wound, (4) Adonais' Deep, (5) the Spring of Eternity, (6) Marion's Trench, (7) the Living Stone, (8) Mountain of Thunder, (9) 100 adult red dragon skulls, (10) the Tree of the Universe.

3. Cause it to be devoured by (1) Cerebus, (2) a Lernaean Hydra, (3) a Titan, (4) an ancient Dragon Turtle.

4. Cause it to be broken against/by or crushed by (1) Talos a triple iron golem, (2) the Gates of Hell, (3) the Cornerstone of the World, (4)Artur's Dolmen, (5) the Juggernaut of the Endless Labyrinth, (6) the heel of a god, (7) the Clashing Rocks, (8) the foot of a humble ant.

5. Expose it to the penetrating light and flame of (1) the Ray of Eternal Shrinking, (2) the Sun, (3) Truth: that which is pure will become Light, that which is impure will surely wither.

6. Cause it to be steeped in either the encephalic fluids of the brain of Bahamut (the platinum dragon), or in the black and foul blood from the heart of Tiamat the Chromatic Dragon.

7. Cause it to be seared by the odious flames of Geryon's destroyed soul or disintegrated in the putrid ichor of Juiblex's deliquescing flesh.

8. Sprinkle it with/baptize it in the (1) Well of Life, (2) River Styx, (3) River of Flame, (4) River Lethe (the river of forgetfulness).

Not sure why’d you want to destroy your new Artifact, but those are the ways you can do it. I don’t care how bad the Malevolent Powers or Side Effects are. Reading through this list, it doesn’t seem worth trying any of them. I mean really, are you going to walk up to Tiamat and explain to the most powerful dragon in D&D lore, that sorry, but you have to kill her cause you need the blood from her heart? I’m sure that will go over well… though I’d love to see my party’s face when they take their new artifact on a picnic and an ant steps on it!

Artifacts in 2eCodex of the Infinite Planes

The Codex is a massive tome, far larger than any book has a right to be. It is said that two strong men can barely lift the volume. The covers are made of flawless black obsidian and the pages therein are sheets of lead hammered so thin that they flex like paper. These are illuminated with strange writings in languages unknown and illustrations both beautiful and horrific. No matter how many pages are turned, there is always one more.

Invoked. All powers of the Codex are triggered by reading, if one knows where to look. The Codex can open a portal to any plane, demiplane, or prime material world at any location. The book, however, has no index or table of contents. The only other known power is to summon a greater fiend to serve for 24 hours (1/month).
Random. 4 from Table 26: Minor Spell-Like Powers, 4 from Table 25: Major Spell-Like Powers
Curse. Every page read, whether useful or not, has a 1% cumulative chance of triggering an awful fate (by accidentally opening the wrong portal)—irreversible madness, the arrival of a greater tanar'ri, 10-mile radius clouds of deadly poison (no saving throw), or worse. No character can read more than 99 pages before doom befalls them.

Book of Artifacts, 1993 TSR Inc.

Oh boy… Now this is an artifact of some freaky shit. On page 27 of The Book of Artifacts, the codex is just asking to be used in a campaign, and the book even gives some helpful hints as to when you should introduce the Codex into your games. They recommend for high level campaigns ready to explore the planes and your players should only find it through a series of strange catastrophes, and they shouldn’t be allowed to keep it for long as it will spell doom for the party.

This codex is everything I ever wanted in an artifact, it has strange powers, it’ll kill the characters and… puts a larger focuses on the planes! Who doesn’t love saving the planes from a massive destructive force?

Artifacts in 2e have a lot of information that goes along with them, and we continue with having random minor and major powers that go along with them from 1e. One of main differences between 1e and 2e artifacts is that they now have specific ways to destroy them, instead of just generic ways.

Destroying an Artifact in 2e

• It cannot be destroyed, only safely hidden where it can cause no harm.
• Every page of its infinite pages must be read.
• One page of the book opens a portal upon the book itself, wiping it out of existence.

With each artifact having it’s own way of being destroyed, it can range from the absurd, like reading every page of infinity, to something a bit more doable… like hitting it until it is destroyed (The Machine of Lum the Mad, every hit destroys 1d4 levers).

Artifacts in 3e/3.5eThe Moaning Diamond

Said to have been ripped from the ground in a ritual that tortured the earth itself, the Moaning Diamond appears to be an uncut diamond the size of a human fist. At all times, it gives forth a baleful moaning sound, as if in pain. Despite the noise, the Moaning Diamond is not evil (although it was birthed in torture). The wielder of the stone can, three times per day, call upon it to reshape earth and stone as if by the spell stone shape, affecting 5,000 cubic feet of material. The Moaning Diamond can summon an elder earth elemental with maximum hit points that serves the caster until it is slain. Only one such elemental can be summoned at a time; if it is slain, a new creature cannot be summoned for 24 hours. Tales from the past tell of the Moaning Diamond creating stone structures, opening under-ground chambers where there had been none before, and collapsing entire castles.

This seems like a pretty weak major artifact, and that’s the reason that we added it to the list. Not all artifacts, even major ones, are so overpowered that they break the game. The Diamond doesn’t have 43 cumulative powers like the gross teeth, but what you can do is pretty interesting. Of course, that constant moaning may get old really quick and you may end up chucking it into a cavern of its own making.

The possessor can cast the stone shape spell three times a day; that spell allows you to form an existing piece of stone into any shape that suits your purpose. It’s possible to make crude coffers, doors, and so forth with stone shape, fine detail isn’t possible. There is a 30% chance that any shape, including moving parts, simply doesn’t work.

Now the spell only allows you to shape 10 cubic feet, + 1 foot per caster level. The Diamond allows you to shape 5000 cubic feet. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out just how much that is, and the best I could come up with is… that it’s a shit ton. But the question is what good does that do you. Two things popped into my head immediately. First, you could build a moat. You probably should have a castle, but if you do, it would sure save on the labor cost.

The second idea I have was a bit more practical for combat situations. You’re being attacked by 1,000 kobolds. Don’t know what you did to piss them off, but here they come. You touch the ground in front of you and create a giant hole in the ground, swallowing up all thousand of those kobolds. While you deal with the kobold army in a round, everyone has plenty of time to finish working on that moat you ordered constructed!

Now the best part of the Diamond is it allows the owner to summon an Elder Earth Elemental. When you call forth your new best friend, you get quite a bit out of him:

Earth Elemental, Elder Huge Elemental
Hit Dice - 24d8 + 120. Max Hit Points: 312
Initiative
(–1) | Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class 22 (–2 size, –1 Dex, +15 natural) touch 7, flat-footed 22
Base Attack/Grapple +18/+37
Attack Slam +27 melee (2d10+11/19–20)
Full Attack 2 Slams +27 melee (2d10+11/19–20)
Space/Reach 15 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks Earth mastery, push
Special Qualities Damage reduction 10/–, earth glide, darkvision 60 ft., elemental traits
Saves Fort +19 | Ref +7 | Will +10
Str 33 | Dex 8 | Con 21 | Int 10 | Wis 11 | Cha 11
Skills Listen +29, Spot +29
Feats Alertness, Awesome Blow, Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Critical (slam), Improved Sunder, Iron Will, Power Attack
CR 11

I may have been wrong about this being a weak artifact. In fact, after looking at this stat block and realize you can summon one of these guys every 24 hours after your latest one dies, I know I’m wrong (I being Chris. Stephen claims he’s never wrong). The players have probably hit close to their max level if they find this artifact, but having a Huge Earth Elemental at your disposal with two attacks and nine feats is crazy good. Not to mention that an Elder Elemental is 40 feet tall and weighs 60,000 pounds. Most sane creatures will run away as fast as possible when they see your buddy… though I think we know who we can get to move our Machine of Lum the Mad!

Destroying an Artifact in 3.5e

3e/3.5e is a bit more to the point about how to destroy an artifact; the DM chooses one option from the following list as the only means of destruction for an artifact:

1. Throwing it into the volcano lair of the dragon Uthrax.

2. Crushed under the heel of a demigod.

3. Buried in the Rift of Corrosion in the Abyss.

4. Disintegrated while placed at the base of the Infinite Staircase.

5. Devoured by Talos, the triple iron golem.

6. Immersed in the Fountain of Light in the holy Halls of Heironeous himself.

As with AD&D, none of these seem like a very good idea if you want to continue breathing. The Dungeon Master’s Guide even states as much, saying that since it’s so hard to destroy artifacts, they are usually just buried in a deep vault, cast into the astral plane or guarded by some unsuspecting, but extremely powerful guardian. Plus, if people did go around feeding artifacts to Talos, how would our adventurers find these stupidly powerful items?

Artifacts in 4eAmulet of Passage

The Amulet of Passage is appropriate for heroic level characters.

This fine silver chain is unassuming, bearing a single arrowhead shaped jewel. While you wear this amulet, it stirs thoughts of legendary battles and heroic deeds.

The Amulet of Passage is a +2 magic amulet with the following properties and powers.

Item Slot: Neck
Enhancement: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
Property: You gain a +2 item bonus to Acrobatics and Athletics checks to escape, and to Thievery checks to open locks.
Power (At Will) Standard Action: You attune an ally to the Amulet. While attuned and within 10 squares of you, an ally can use the Amulet's powers (but not its enhancement bonus or properties) as if he or she were wearing it.
Power (Daily ♦ Teleportation Move Action): You and each attuned ally can each use this power once per day. You teleport a number of squares equal to your speed

Amulet of Passage Lore
Religion DC 16: An ancient tale describes how Asmodeus, seeking to thwart the power of fate, placed obstacles in the paths of those mortal beings with the greatest destinies. To counter this affront, the Raven Queen crafted the Amulet of Passage to guide the greatest mortal heroes back to the path that fate had laid ow for them.
Religion DC 21: Another legend claims that Avandra made the Amulet to help heroes pursue their own dreams and goals. The Amulet grants extraordinary powers of movement—not just to its owner, but to its owner's allies as well.

Goals of the Amulet of Passage
Find those that could become legendary heroes and guide them toward their destined paths. Continue to move through the world in search of new heroes.

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The Xorn. I know some of you are saying, “What the hell is a Xorn?” And that’s a fair question. It’s a poor forgotten creature that exists in the back of every Monster Manual, is underutilized, and not shown anywhere close the amount of love it deserves. It’s probably because it’s pretty ugly.

This elemental has three arms and three legs attached to what basically amounts to a giant bowling ball body that has a huge mouth on the top of it. But is the fact that they are ridiculous looking the reason we don’t see many of them in campaigns? Who can tell, but what we do know is that you better hand over all your gold, or you’re going to get an asswhoopin.

1e - Xorn

Frequency: Very rare
No. Appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: -2
Move: 9"
Hit Dice: 7+7
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type: P, Q (X )
Damage/Attack: 1-3 (X 3),6-24
Special Attacks: Surprise on a 1-5
Special Defenses: See below
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M (5' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Monster Manual, 1977 TSR, Inc.

The Xorn was released in the first Monster Manual in 1977 and is located on pg. 102. This same page page has the iconic Wraith and Wyvern, but despite having to compete against such awesome creatures, this guy stands out like a sore thumb. And how couldn’t it? Look at that picture. This thing makes ugly look pretty.

Being an Earth Elemental, the Xorn normally lives on the elemental earth plane, but they do travel to the material plane to feed on minerals that can only be found here. They are interested in any type of mineral and will demand to be fed any precious metals an adventuring party might have on them, as they can smell any minerals from 20’ away! Also… if denied, they’ll attack and try to take it by force. Mean little jerks.

The Xorn is a pretty powerful creature to tangle with. First, there could be up to four of these bad boys the party may have to fight. As we will, that could spell major trouble for even a mid-level party. They have an AC of -2, and in AD&D that is really, really good. To put it into perspective, Bahamut, King of the Good Dragons, only has a AC of -1 in AD&D. So they are hard to hit, which makes sense as they are made of earth. To make matters worse, all fire and cold spells have no effects on the Xorn, and all electrical attacks (ie. lightning bolts) only do half damage. Add to the the fact that they get 7[d8] + 7 Hit Dice and you have some tough rocks to tangle with.

Now, this isn’t to say they don’t have any weaknesses. Not that anyone ever takes these spells: move earth, stone to flesh or rock to mud; but they are very effective against the Xorn. The two later spells are especially potent, as they reduce the Xorn’s AC to 8, which is the same AC as the Zombie. With the Xorn’s defenses taken down for 1 round, your front line fighters can hack away and actually deal some damage. And on the very rare chance your magic user has taken the pass wall spell, it will do 11-20 points of damage. That’s a nasty chunk of damage for them as they have anywhere from 14 to 63 HP.

Monster Manual, 1977 TSR, Inc.

Now, if things are going poorly for the Xorn, they can attempt to flee from the battle by burrowing into the nearest stone object, like the floor. If your magic user is especially spiteful, or really wants all the XPs, they can cast Phase Door on the spot that the Xorn has phased through… this kills the Xorn immediately.

But while the Xorn is a big beast of defense, it’s attacks are pretty underwhelming. The Xorn gets 4 attacks - one with each of its arms followed by a bite attack. The arm attacks are pretty weak, only doing 1-3 points of damage per round. The mouth is its primary attack, dealing 6-24 [6d4] points of damage on a hit. But someone needs to explain to us how it exactly goes about biting someone as it has no knees. It’s a hilarious though to imagine it tipping itself over to its side and trying to bite someone while its third leg is shooting out behind it, wiggling free in the air.

Monster Manual, 1977 TSR, Inc.

Before we move onto the next edition, the Xorn is not alone. The Xaren appears in Monster Manual 2 (1983) and was a slightly weaker version of the Xorn. It was mostly interested in magical metals as it could gain a permanent bonus to its HP for every +1 modifier to the weapon. It could smell magical metal from 40’ away and demand that adventurer’s hand over any magic metal, and if they didn’t at least offer it non-magical iron, it would attack them and try to eat the weapons out of their hands. In the second monster manual, they look a bit nicer and are even given knees.

2e - Xorn

Climate/Terrain: Subterranean
Frequency: Very rare
Organization: Solitary
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Minerals
Intelligence: Average (8- 10)
Treasure: OO, P, Q(x5), X, Y
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: -2
Movement: 9
Hit Dice: 7+7
THAC0: 13
No. of Attacks: 4
Damage/Attack: 1-3(x3) 6-24
Special Attacks: Surprise
Special Defenses: Spell Immunities
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M(5’ Tall)
Morale: Champion (16)
XP Value: 4,000

Monstrous Manual, 1993 TSR, Inc.

Before we get into the juicy bits of the Xorn we have to mention one super important detail. They actually get uglier in 2e. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get into it.

This weird, Guillermo Del Toro fish reject was first introduced in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989) and have similar stats to the previous Xorn. They have great defenses, underwhelming attacks, though they do go into how it will angle itself at a 45° angle to use its mouth to bite at creatures, even though it has no interest in flesh. It only eats minerals.

In 2e, the Xorn is a much more passive creature. They will not attack flesh creature since they cannot digest it. However, if the characters are carrying around a large amount of precious metals or minerals, which it can smell up to 20 ft away, the Xorn’s quiet nature is thrown aside as it become very, very hangry. The Xorn will give those pesky flesh creatures the opportunity to hand over a reasonable portion of their gold and gems, but if the characters refuse, it will attack them and even try to eat their weapons while it is at it (the weapons get a small bonus to not be hit). They are able to communicate somewhat, though they don’t share a common tongue with the inhabitants of the Material Plane. You can cast a spell to understand what they are saying, but I imagine it mostly just communicates by pointing at the gold purse the characters are wearing and then at its mouth.

Monstrous Compendium Volume Two, 1989 TSR, Inc.

Continuing it’s attack on the characters, the monster manual goes into some detail as to how it can adjust its attacks. It will move into the stone floor and come up at the character’s feet, granting it surprise when it surfaces; biting and tearing away at the adventurer. Though, if the Xorn is unlucky enough to fight a magic user with the phase door spell, it will die instantly if it is directed at it while the Xorn is passing through stone.

In 2e, we learn a bit more about the lore. The Xorn travel in small clans that will eat their way through veins of minerals, often leaving air pockets in the rock where there used to be veins of ore, monsters and other creatures then make those places their home. There is one line in the Monstrous Manual (1993), that might move your heart for these strange, strange creatures. They are often hunted down for sport by Dao, and even used as slaves for those very same Dao. Interestingly enough, the Xaren are also introduced in the Monstrous Manual and they point out that while Dao will still hunt them down, they don’t employ them as slaves. I can only assume this is because Xaren are extremely interested in eating magical materials and the Dao don’t want to babysit all their valuable magic items.

3.5e - Xorn

Medium Outsider (Extraplanar, Earth)
Hit Dice: 7d8+17 (48 hp) / Initiative: +0
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), burrow 20 ft.
Armor Class: 24 (+14 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 24
Attack: Bite +10 melee (4d6+3)
Full Attack: Bite +10 melee (4d6+3) and 3 claws +8 melee (1d4+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft. / Special Attacks:
Special Qualities: All-around vision, earth glide, damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to cold and fire, resistance to electricity 10, tremorsense Saves: 60 ft. Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +5
Abilities: Str 17, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 10
Skills: Hide +10, Intimidate +10, Knowledge(dungeoneering) +10, Listen +10, Move Silently +10, Search +10, Spot +10, Survival+10 (+12 following tracks or underground)
Feats: Cleave, Multiattack, Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Multiattack, Power Attack, Toughness
Environment: Elemental Plane of Earth, Solitary, pair, or cluster (3–5)
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: None
Alignment: Usually neutral
Advancement: 8–14 HD (Medium)

Monster Manual, 2000 WotC

Sigh. The Xorn now have fully formed knees which is great given the knee issues in the previous two editions, but that is the only improvement. It’s green and has giant lips on its huge mouth. I’m not sure I understand why they made it green. It looks less like an earth elemental, and more like some deformed frog. I almost feel bad for it… as if it is telling me to just kill it and take it out of its misery.

And please… Don’t even get me started on the lips.

The 3/3.5e Xorn was introduced in the first Monster Manual (2000 / 2003) which is a small victory over 2e where it had to wait until the second monster manual. The Xorn is given very little in the way of description and the Xaren is completely removed in 3e and going forward. But it isn’t a complete wash for the Xorn as it is given three versions that your unfortunate adventurers could get attacked by. There is the Minor, Average (statted above) and Elder Xorn; each Xorn is pretty similar to each other with changes mostly in the size of the monster, hit points, and damage dealt.

One key feature that the Xorn now has is All-Around Vision. The Monster Manual goes on to explain that because of its symmetrical eye placement, it is able to look in any direction. This gives it a bonus to spot and search checks and that it can’t be flanked.

The tactics that the Xorn use are the same as it’s always been. It will attempt to demand food from adventurers, and when that doesn’t work it’ll just attack them for their stuff. The monster manual lists these creatures as neutral, but I’m pretty sure that if I just started demanding things, and when I didn’t get it, I just started attacking people; I’d be listed as an evil asshole. But, I suppose that when they are on their home plane they are far nicer as they have such a huge supply of food and aren’t attacking people.

Before, we mentioned there were three forms of the Xorn. While they mostly stay the same, the Elder Xorn is a CR 8 creature, making it a pretty fearsome threat to mid level characters. Adding to that, they sometimes travel in pairs or even packs of 6-11 at a time, and that makes them go from fearsome to downright deadly. They will send one xorn to ‘negotiate’ for food, while the rest of them position themselves under the characters and lie in wait for the adventurers to say no. They then attack.

With an average of 130 hp, four attacks and some added feats, players may learn to give up some of their riches than be attacked by those hideous lips and mouth again. The Feats, for those with little experience with 3.5e, are as follows:

  • Awesome Blow - Send smaller opponents flying away from you

  • Cleave - If you knock a creature to 0 hp, you can make an attack against another creature near you

  • Improved Bull Rush - You can rush at an enemy and push them back without taking Attacks of Opportunity

  • Power Attack - Take a minus to your hit and deal more damage.

  • Toughness - Gain extra hit points

4e - Xorn

Xorn - Level 9 Skirmisher
Medium elemental magical beast (earth), XP 400
Initiative +8 / Senses Perception +7; all-around vision darkvision
HP 102; Bloodied 51
AC 23; Fortitude 24, Reflex 19, Will 20
Speed 5, burrow 5; see also earth glide
> Claw (standard; at-will) • +14vs.AC; 1d6 + 5 damage. 
> Triple Strike (standard; at-will) - The xorn makes three claw attacks, each against a different target.
> Earthy Maw (standard;at-will) • +14 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage.
Earth Glide: A xorn can burrow through solid stone as if it were loose earth.
Retreat (immediate reaction, when the xorn is missed by a melee attack; at-will) The xorn burrows its speed.
Submerge (minor; at-will) The xorn sinks partially under the ground and gains a +2 bonus to AC until it moves.
Alignment Unaligned / Languages Common, Primordial
Str 20 (+9) | Con 22 (+10) | Dex 15 (+6) | Int 12 (+5) | Wis 17 (+7) | Cha 12 (+5)

Finally… I can actually get behind this picture of the Xorn. Fearsome. Mighty. And it may even make your players crap their pants when it comes for their treasure.

Monster Manual 3, 2009 WotC

But unfortunately, 4e keeps the love away from the Xorn until it is released in Monster Manual 2 (2009) and they give it two forms to ruin your party’s day. The Xorn, and the Diamondhide Xorn. The Xorn is pretty similar to the 3e version while the Diamondhide Xorn is pretty close to the Elder Xorn.

One thing of note: The Xorn is no longer just a solitary or clan only creature, spending its time on the material plane hunting for food. They now will bargain their services across the planes in exchange for precious metals and gemstones. Why fight hapless adventurers when you can get your food as payment for something you do naturally? They can be found aiding the mining or smelting operations of duergar and fire giants, and even allied with galeb duhrs or other creatures of elemental earth.

This is a great flavor addition, and the DM now has more chances to bring in these hulking beasts; instead of just when the adventurers are walking through a dungeon.

5e - Xorn

Xorn / Medium elemental, neutral
Armor Class 19 (natural armor) / Hit Points 73 (7d8 + 42) / Speed 20 ft., burrow 20ft.
STR 17 (+3) | DEX 10 (+0) | CON 22 (+6) | INT 11 (+0) | WIS 10 (+0) | CHA 11 (+0)
Skills Perception +6, Stealth +3 / Damage Resistances piercing and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren't adamantine
Senses darkvision 60ft., tremorsense 60ft., Passive Perception 16 / Languages Terran
Challenge 5 (1 ,800 XP)
Earth Glide. The xorn can burrow through non magical, unworked earth and stone. While doing so, the xorn doesn’t disturb the material it moves through.
Stone Camouflage. The xorn has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in rocky terrain.
Treasure Sense. The xorn can pinpoint, by scent, the location ofprecious metals and stones, such as coins and gems, within 60feet of it.
Multiattack. The xorn makes three claw attacks and one bite attack.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.Hit: l3 (3d6 + 3) piercing damage.

At last, we get to the latest incarnation of the Xorn. Our poor, unloved creature looks even better in 5e, and appears in the first Monster Manual (2014).

Monster Manual, 2014 WotC

Unfortunately for the Xorn, this is one of the weakest incarnations for it. The Xorn, compared to its beginnings, is nerfed pretty hard. While it’s AC is 19, making it difficult for low level adventurers to hit it, its HP has been reduced to an average of 73. No new skills or abilities have been added and it is back to being primarily a solitary creature lost on the Material Plane.

To make them even sadder; Xorns are now described as beggars and thieves:

Because a xorn isn't evil, it pleads or bargains in the hope of convincing owners to give up their treasure, offering up information it has learned from its travels in exchange. A xorn whose requests are ignored might resort to threats  and bullying. If starving or angered, it resorts to force.

Our once proud and mighty Xorn is reduced to begging from adventurers, as it doesn’t have much chance unless it is attacking low level parties. The Xorn should only be bargaining for its food, as that has been a common thread throughout the past..

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This one is for my daughter Claire. She thinks Mimics are cool.

Mimics. The strange shapeshifting goo-like creature that becomes a perfect representation of whatever it needs to trick people into wanting to touch it. How did this stress inducing monster come to be? Who do we have to thank for this abomination? Gary Gygax of course, though Ed Greenwood fleshed them out a lot in 1983 when he wrote The Ecology of the Mimic… but we will get to that!

The mimic has been the source of countless memes, T-shirts, and various other products over time. But why do these horrible creatures seem to get so much love? For a DM, it’s fun to throw at new players. Many have never encountered a mimic before, and even those experienced players that should know better, don’t take the time to do an investigation check on that suspicious chest in the middle on an empty room. The most hardened and seasoned player can still get surprised by a mimic… But unlike many of the creatures in D&D, the mimic will usually elicit laughter from the party when it attacks, not the sense of complete horror when it’s the Tarrasque.

Let’s take a look at how the mimic came to be and how it has progressed through the editions.

1e

Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 7
Move: 3"
Hit Dice: 7- 10
% in Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 3-12
Special Attacks: Glue
Special Defenses: Camouflage
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Semi- to average
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

First off, Mimics can only be found underground. AD&D was mostly a dungeon crawl in its early days, so like most creatures, underground is the location to be. It also makes sense since they cannot stand sunlight, but this is also the fallback reason for most creatures found underground. That giant, yellow orb in the sky really gets no love in early D&D.

Monster Manual, 1977 TSR, Inc.

Mimics have a fairly poor AC, as an AC 7 is below average (remember, the lower the AC the better!). They also don’t do that much damage, as they are limited to one attack which only does 3-12 (3d4) points of damage. Now Killer Mimics do get a decent amount of HP to play with, as they have an average of 64 HP. What really hurts is the glue that the mimic uses. The wording is quite odd when describing how the glue works, “…the mimic excretes a glue which holds fast whatever member the creature touched the mimic with.” (AD&D MM, pg. 70) So the word “member” throws me off, not to mentions sends my mind straight into the gutter.

Touching the mimic causes your hand to get stuck, kicking it gets your foot stuck, so on and so forth. But does this mean that any weapons that touch the mimic will also be stuck? I assume yes, maybe not if they are magic weapons, but it’s not quite clarified enough, like many things in the early editions. Also, there is no mention of the player being able to break free. This seems like a bit of an oversight, but I can just imagine a fighter having to drag along the dead weight of these weird amorphous creature cause they forgot to bring a backup weapon.

Furthermore, mimics can only be stone or wood. This becomes a little more flexible in later editions, but in a dungeon crawl, this makes some sense. The Monster Manual states that “Mimics can pose as stonework, doors, chests, or any other substance or item they can imitate.” (AD&D 1st ed. MM, pg. 70) The last part of the sentence gives the DM so much room to create untold horrors for their party, anything from stone thrones to wooden beds to maybe even the entire dungeon room!

Speaking of entire dungeon rooms, in Dungeon magazine No. 19 (October 1989), an adventure is written about a vanishing village. In truth, it was massive mimics the size of houses and inns that would eat travelers on the road. If that doesn’t give you some great ideas for a random encounter, let me point you to another magazine; Dragon magazine No. 75 (July 1983) which provides an article on The Ecology of the Mimic. This, almost scientific, look at the mimic provides great information about exactly what a mimic is and how it’s inner capillaries can move brown pigments to the top of its stone-looking skin to look like wood.

One last thing before we head into 2e, AD&D gives us some interesting mimics to throw at our players. Not only do we have the stereotypical ever-hungry-killer mimic, but we also have the friendly and smaller mimic. This mimic will be friendly toward the players if they offer it some food and I assume don’t hit it with their magic and swords. The Monster Manual goes on to say that these mimics speak a number of languages, including common, so the party has a decent chance of talking to it. If the party is friendly to the mimic and feeds it, there is a decent chance it will tell the party what it knows in the surrounding area. That’s way better than a murderhobo chest intent on making you its snack.

2e

There are several different mimics in 2e, we are just going to focus on three of them. The first one brought to life is the Mimic, Greater in the 1989 Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume 2, followed by two smaller versions: the Common and Killer Mimic. A type of mimic worth mentioning are the House Hunters, mimics the size of houses that travel in packs and one other, but we will talk about that at the end of 2e.

Climate/Terrain: Subterranean (Common, Greater, Killer)
Frequency: Rare (Common & Killer) / Very Rare (Greater)
Organization:
Solitary (Common, Greater, Killer)
Activity Cycle: Any (Common, Greater, Killer)
Diet: Carnivore (Common, Greater, Killer)
Treasure: Incidental (Common & Killer) / Nil (Greater)
Intelligence: Common: Average (8-10) / Killer: Semi- (2-4) / Greater: High (12-14)
Alignment: Neutral (Common, Greater, Killer)
No. Appearing: 1 (Common, Greater, Killer)
Armor Class: 7 (Common & Killer) / 5 internal, 2 external (Greater)
Movement: 3 (Common & Killer) / 1 (Greater)
Hit Dice:
Common: 7-8 / Killer: 9-10 / Greater: 15 or 16
THAC0:
Common: 13 / Killer: 11 / Greater: 5
No. of Attacks:
1 (Common, Greater, Killer)
Damage/Attack: 3-12 (Common & Killer) / 6d4 (Greater)
Special Attacks: Glue (Common, Greater, Killer)
Special Defenses: Camouflage (Common, Greater, Killer)
Magic Resistance: Nil (Common & Killer) / 10% (Greater)
Size: L (Common & Killer) / H: 1,000+ cu. ft. (Greater)
Morale:
Common: Champion(15) / Killer: Elite (13) / Greater: Fanatic (17)
XP Value: 7 HD - 975 / 9 HD - 2000 / 8 HD - 1400 / 10 HD - 3000 (Common & Killer) / 7,000 - 8,000 (Greater)

Monstrous Manual, 1993 TSR Inc.

2e a lot more detail about our three types of mimic: Common, Greater and Killer. While they are alike in many ways, the biggest difference is that one will kill you at the first chance, the other has the potential to be “friendly”, and the last one is massive and will kill you at the first chance.

As with the AD&D edition, Common Mimic can be very forthcoming with information about the surrounding area if you give them a little bit of food. The Killer and Greater… not so much as you are their food.

Combat is pretty similar to AD&D, but we are given more information. For the two lesser types, Common and Killer, they still only deal 3d4 damage on a hit while the Greater deals 6d4. The books also go into more detail about the mimic, including the fact that the mimic’s glue that holds things to it will dissolve after only five rounds… though five rounds in the middle of combat may be enough to kill even the hardiest barbarian if they get unlucky and can’t break free from the dead mimic’s hold. Speaking of, we are finally given information on how to break free. The character has ONLY ONE chance to make an Open Door Check to break free, or else they are held fast and can’t do anything else on their round. Though, if a character pours alcohol on the mimic, the glue will dissolve in three rounds and any stuck characters will be released, so that’s something!

2e dives into a deeper background for the mimics and even talks a bit more about their ecology. Mimics were created by by wizards and used to protect their treasures, though most wizards don’t find them super helpful as they don’t like to follow orders. Mimics apparently then developed into a solitary race that feed in dungeons and underground lairs and created their own language… somehow. A good meal, consisting of 1-2 humanoids, can satisfy a mimic’s hunger for weeks. What is also pretty neat is the mimic is able to excrete a foul smelling liquid that will attract small common prey. When those pesky adventurers are taking the week off, a couple of rats can tide them over.

Monstrous Compendium - Annual Volume 2, 1995 TSR Inc.

And our final remark pertains to the Greater Mimic: Due to its size, it chooses to not disguise itself as a pile of treasure, but rather as an entire room. It can also decorate its internals with furniture, illusory people and so much more. When a band of adventurers decides that that one room with all the nice furniture would be a great place to take a rest… it just simply closes the door (Read: its mouth) and begins attacking and eating the adventurers inside of it. Now, it doesn’t make any mention of an entire dungeon being a mimic… but I have such a wonderful, terrible idea for my next campaign…

Now, technically I did say that that was my final remark… but I can’t leave you without this last bit of information… There is a Space Mimic and it lives in the “wildspace” between planetary bodies… so not even space is safe. I’ve heard this well furnished dungeon is safe though!

3.5e

Large Aberration (Shapechanger)
Hit Dice: 
7d8+21 (52 hp)Initiative: +1
Speed: 
10 ft. (2 squares)
Armor Class: 
15 (–1 size, +1 Dex, +5 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: 
+5/+13
Attack: Slam
+9 melee (1d8+4)
Full Attack: 
2 slams +9 melee (1d8+4)
Space/Reach: 
10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: 
Adhesive, crush
Special Qualities: 
Darkvision 60 ft., immunity to acid, mimic shape
Saves: 
Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +6
Abilities: 
Str 19, Dex 12, Con 17, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 10
Skills: 
Climb +9, Disguise +13, Listen +8, Spot +8
Feats: 
Alertness, Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (slam)
Environment: 
Underground
Organization: 
Solitary
Challenge Rating: 
4
Treasure: 
1/10th coins; 50% goods; 50% items
Alignment: 
Usually neutral
Advancement: 
8–10 HD (Large); 11–21 HD (Huge)

Monster Manual, 2000 WotC

3/3.5e scaled back the craziness of the mimic by only having one mimic statblock in the Monster Manual (2000, 2003 for 3.5). No longer are there separate mimics to trick your party with, they are turned into a single creature and they now only speak Common. While their base HP is a little lower now, they do have the potential to have a lot more HP depending on the size, and of course, how vicious your DM is. It’s AC is buffed slightly but not so much as to make them much harder to kill. Their damage is also increased a little, now doing a minimum of 5 points of damage instead of 3, plus any creature stuck to the mimic automatically gets one attack made against them… so don’t get stuck.

Weapons and what happens to them are now spelled out; when you hit them you must make a DC 16 Reflex save. Failing that, you have to make a DC 16 Strength check to pull your weapon out. All other information about the mimic and their annoying glue stays the same: alcohol can dissolve it, mimics can dissolve their glue at will and it takes 5 round after they die for the glue to dissolve.

Interestly enough, the mimic gets dumber in this version, and by a lot. It can still speak common, but their intelligence is dropping. While they still know enough to bargain for food with adventurers, the mimic can be “extorted” to give up it’s treasure. No more information about the surrounding area, but I’m fairly sure the players will give up the information for the promise of riches.

4e

Object Mimic - Level 8 Lurker
Medium aberrant magical beast, XP 350
Initiative +11 / Senses Perception +14, darkvision, tremorsense 5
HP 71; Bloodied 35
AC 23; Fortitude 21, Reflex 19, Will 21 / Resist 5 acid
Speed 5
(Trait) Ambush - The object mimic deals 2d6 extra damage against surprised creatures.
> Slam (standard, at-will) • Melee (1) +13 vs. AC; Hit: 2d8 + 7 damage
> Crushing Tendrils (acid) (standard, at-will) • Melee (3) +13 vs. AC Hit: 1d8 + 4 damage, and the mimic grabs the target. The target takes a –5 penalty to attempts to escape the grab. / Sustain Standard: The object mimic sustains the grab, and the target takes 15 acid damage.
> Ravening Maw (standard, recharge 5-6) • Melee (2) +13 vs. AC Hit: 2d8 + 11 damage, and the target is slowed (save ends).
> Shapeshift (polymorph) (minor, at-will, 1/round) Effect: The mimic assumes one of the following forms. It can’t change its size. It remains in the chosen form until it uses this power again.
Ooze Form: The mimic becomes an ooze. When it squeezes while it is in this form, it moves at full speed rather than half speed, it doesn’t take the –5 penalty to attack rolls, and it doesn’t grant combat advantage for squeezing,
Object Form: While in this form, the mimic has resist 10 to all damage, is immobilized, and cannot attack. In addition, a creature must succeed on a DC 24 Perception check to notice that the mimic is a living creature.
Alignment unaligned / Languages Common, Deep Speech
Skills Bluff +11, Stealth +12
Str 20 (+9) | Dex 16 (+7) | Wis 21 (+9) | Con 17 (+7) | Int 19 (+8) | Cha 15 (+6)

Monster Manual 3, 2010 WotC

Ah, blessed 4e. Mimics are found in the Monster Manual III, which seems odd with it being such a classic monster and being one of the most well known monster in all of DnD so much so as being added into other games and content. Then again, the Mind Flayer was also relegated to the same book, so we aren’t quite sure what happened here. Where 3.5e scales the mimic down to only one type, 4e created three different types of mimics, with the Impersonator Mimic being as awesome as it is deadly.

But first, the Object Mimic is the traditional mimic that we have been working with since AD&D. The party walks into a room, there’s a chest in the corner, the greedy rogue goes up to open it up and mayhem ensues. This mimic has been buffed a decent amount. It’s HP is now up to 71, and it’s AC takes a big jump to 23. Though it’s the damage where this mimic really increases in power. If the mimic surprises the character, which is now a DC 24 perception check, then it deals an extra 2d6 damage on the ambush… So that is new and it sucks for the players, but the cackling of the DM will pry drown out their crying.

There are also a variety of different attacks the typical mimic can make. The Slam is the standard attack the mimic has had in every version, and the damage is increased to 2d8+7. The “glue ability” is now described as Crushing Tendrils, this attack does 1d8+4, which is the same as the previous versions slam attack, but they now grapple their prey on this attack. When the mimic maintains this grapple on the character, the target takes 15 acid damage. Oof. Finally, this mimic now gets a Ravening Maw attack. This is its most powerful attack, as a successful hit deals 2d8+11 points of damage and the player is slowed.

The form of the Object Mimic is broken out into two forms in 4e. It’s Object form is what we what we normally think of when we think of a mimic, while it cannot move in this form, it does get a hefty +10 to its resist all damage. The downside is it cannot attack, so once the player is surprised, it immediately changes into its Ooze form and attacks. The ooze form also allows the mimic to escape if the battle is going poorly for it. This form allows the mimic to squeeze through smaller areas that the party may not be able to. Once it has fled to a safe place, it will revert back to object form, most likely taking on the appearance of part of the wall or ceiling to avoid being discovered.

Now we can get to the Impersonator Mimic, who is just as nasty as you’d hope. This mimic can assume the form of a humanoid, no more blatantly out of place chests in a dungeon for this mimic! These mimics can be found above ground as well as underground. Nothing like going into that oddly empty tavern in the middle of nowhere to get a drink after a long day, only to be attacked by a mimic. The first thing that comes to mind with these mimics are the liquid terminators in Terminator 2!

Oh, and should we mention that they now absorb all the knowledge and language of the person they devour and impersonate, then use their new “skin” to hunt down more unsuspecting prey? Yea, they do that. They are mean and nasty, and that is even before we get to their increases in HP, AC and damage output… and the spawns… they have Mimic Spawns.

These little guys may not seem like much at first glance, but they function as minions to the Impersonator Mimic, who creates them from their own body, and they will sacrifice themselves to save their… momma?… whenever needed. Spawns can only assume object form, but upon the start of combat will revert to their ooze form and attack. They have one attack, doing 12 damage and once they get old enough they’ll become an Object Mimic followed by an Impersonator Mimic… and we assume that if you get enough of these guys together, they may even become House Hunters from 2e.

5e

Mimic / Medium monstrosity (shapechanger), neutral
Armor Class 12 (Natural Armor) / Hit Points 58 (9d8 + 18) / Speed 15 ft.
STR 17 (+3) | DEX 12 (+1) | CON 15 (+2) | INT 5 (-3) | WIS 13 (+1) | CHA 8 (-1)
Skills Stealth +5 / Damage Immunities Acid / Condition Immunities Prone
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 11 / Languages --
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
Shapechanger. The mimic can..

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This one’s for you Stephen.

The Kobold.  Those annoying little rat-like creatures that have somehow survived through the editions, even though they only have 1-4 hit points.  It’s probably because there are so many of them… and that makes it nearly impossible to kill them all off. Just when you think you have all 200 of the little lizard things wiped out, those last fifty or so scurry away to breed and live to fight another day.

This deep dive will be about the kobold development in history, lore and fighting techniques. Being cannon fodder hasn’t changed much for these guys, but the creature has transformed from being a complete pushover and compared to a goblin, to now being involved in the lore of Tiamat.

OD&D - Kobold

Goblin/Kobold
Number Appearing: 40-400 
Armor Class: 6/7
Move in Inches: 6
Hit Dice: 1- 1 1/2
% in Lair: 50%
Type or amount of Treasure: 1-6 G.P. ea.

Even though the kobold was one of the original creatures in D&D, it didn't even merit a unique description of itself, as it was described as the weaker cousin to the goblin. This is pretty pathetic considering how weak the goblin was. And we all know that calling someone a goblin is extremely rude. Not only is this a slight against the majestic kobold, this is also a personal attack against Dump Stat. We here at Dump Stat, at least Stephen, thinks they are the greatest creature to ever spring to life on the pages of the monster manual… Chris has other opinions.

Like many of the monsters in OD&D, information is pretty sparse. It is worth noticing that the number appearing is 40-400.  Can you say pack tactics anyone? Kobolds on their own, or in small groups, will run or be quickly slaughtered by even 1st level adventurers. Forty kobolds… well that’s another story altogether, though the fact that the barbarian gets a horde at higher levels means that even 400 kobolds aren’t much of an issue. Information on the kobold is pretty limited in OD&D, but that is not uncommon in the original version.

What little information we have on them was released in the White Box (1974). They are listed as a Chaos monster and the DM was told to treat them as a goblin… but weaker. Not a bright day for the Kobold back then, which is pry for the best since they took a -1 to their attacks in daylight.

AD&D 1e - Kobold

Before we begin… I would like to address a horrible slight that the Kobolds experienced in 1e, and I’m not talking about the fact that they look like weird dog/rat/reptile creatures. It’s that the 1e Monster Manual says: It is possible that goblins are distantly related to kobolds. Is there no end to the suffering the awesome kobold must endure? Anyway, here are the stats:

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 40-400
Armor Class: 7
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 1-4 hit points
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type: Individuals J, O, Q (x5) in lair
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 1-4 or by weapon
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic resistance: Nil
Intelligence: Average (low)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: S (3' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense modes: Nil

Monster Manual, 1977 TSR, Inc.

So now we get a little more information on these little bastards. The Kobold starts to get fleshed out a little more, but you have to hunt for some of the information. They are broken into tribes, and the powerful tribes rule with an iron hand and force the weaker tribes to work for them. Since they hate bright light, they are usually found in the deep dark forest or in underground lairs. They are little creatures filled with hate, and love to kill and torture.  It is made very clear that they hate gnomes. They will attack them on sight. Based on some of the sparse lore, they have been at war with the gnomes for a long time.

The root cause of this hatred comes from a conflict between the Kobold god Kurtulmak and the Gnome god Garl Glittergold (Deities & Demigods, pg. 109-110). There is a one line mentioning of Glittergold collapsing the Kurtulmak’s cavern in his description. It’s a one line explanation that leaves a lot to be desired, but we know a kernel of the lore behind why they hate each other. So, if your party has a gnome in it, be prepared to be attacked.

Remember those 40-400 kobolds? That number per encounter hasn’t changed, but now we have them fleshed out a bit more. They have the option to wield a variety of weapons (a chart is given in the AD&D MM, pg. 57) and will be led by a leader and his two guards. These three will have max hit points of 4, an AC of 6 and do 1-6 points of damage.

If you find their lair, we are talking 200-400 kobolds milling about with their 30-300 eggs - yes, kobolds are hatched. Leading this mob of Kobolds is the Chieftain, who interestingly enough gets no stats in the Monster Manual, many more guards and a 65% chance that there will be pets/mounts there that will also fight, either 2-5 wild boars, or 1-4 giant weasels.

I know that many of you are thinking that one or two well placed fireballs could wipe out most of the threat and the rest would flee. You are probably right. We know that kobolds aren’t the smartest of creatures, but that doesn’t mean they are completely stupid and don’t know how to fight and survive. It is noted under the Kurtulmak description that he taught the kobolds the ways of mining, ambushing and looting.  I can envision  roaming groups of kobolds, laying in wait for unsuspecting adventures, striking quick, then fleeing to regroup if the battle turns against them. This is widely popularized in Tucker’s Kobolds, a tale of brave Kobolds protecting their lair from high level adventurers to great effect.

Kobolds eventually become a playable race in 1989 thanks to Joseph Clay in Dragon #141. I have one last, final note about these 1e Kobolds… they can live up to 135 years. For such weak little guys, they sure do cling to life pretty hard.

2e - Kobold

Climate/Terrain: Any land
Frequency: Uncommon
Organization: Tribe
Activity Cycle: Night
Diet: Omnivore
Intelligence: Average (8-10)
Treasure J,O (Qx5)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
No. Appearing: 5-20 (5d4)
Armor Class: 7 (10)
Movement: 6
Hit Dice: 1/2 (1-4 HP)
THAC0: 20
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 1-4 or 1-6 (by weapon)
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: S (3' tall)
Morale: Average (8-10)
XP Value: 7
Chiefs/Guards 15

And the information on the kobold continues to get more developed.  The opening description of the kobold in 2e goes into some depth:

“Kobolds are a cowardly, sadistic race of short humanoids that vigorously contest the human and demi-human races for living space and food. They especially dislike gnomes and attack them on sight.

Barely clearing 3 feet in height, kobolds have scaly hides that range from dark, rusty brown to a rusty black. They smell of damp dogs and stagnant water. Their eyes glow like a bright red spark and they have two small horns ranging from tan to white. Because of the kobolds’ fondness for wearing raggedy garb of red and orange, their non-prehensile rat-like tails, and their language (which sounds like small dogs yapping), these fell creatures are often not taken seriously. This is often a fatal mistake, for what they lack in size and strength they make up in ferocity and tenacity.”

Monstrous Compendium 1, 1989 TSR, Inc.

I love it. The detail that was put into making them look and feel like little evil creatures is fantastic, and the last line starts to clearly state how badly a pack of kobolds can fuck up your day. No longer should we view the kobold as a tiny little rodent that will run at the first sign of a fight (unless it’s a gnome of course), but an intelligent tribe of evil little bastards that shouldn’t be underestimated. Even if they look like they got their picture swapped for hideous goblins.

The 2e Monstrous Manual goes into depth about combat for each monster and the kobold is no exception.  They now have guerrilla tactics available to them when they fight. Smartly, kobolds will attack at a distance whenever possible, as they can now use javelins and spears. When the kobolds have overwhelming numbers on an enemy, they will attack in waves. I would venture to say that over the years of fighting and the knowledge that kobolds are naturally wary of all spell casters, they would not group tightly together when swarming a party.  I bet that they have learned that those pesky AoE spells hurt… a lot.

And we get even more detail on what happens when the party stumbles into the kobold lair.  Along with the same information we had in 1e, we get an approximate number of guards (5-20 or 5d4), improved stats for the chieftain and his guards (AC 5, HP 7 and increased damage to 1-8), and the possibility of shaman(s) being present, giving the tribe some basic spell casting at their disposal. Again, it’s not like a kobold with 4 HP is scary, but when there are 400 of them with their leader, his bodyguards and a couple Wild Boars… well, there is a certain quality in quantity.

Monstrous Manual, 1993 TSR Inc.

We are also given a description of how kobolds love traps. This fits in perfectly with everything we have learned about the little rat… dog… things… They seem like the type of creature that would have you fall into a pit of spikes, and kick you while you're impaled.  The Monstrous Manual states that they like to set up pits, crossbows and mechanical traps.  To us, this gives the sense that the kobolds are more intelligent than their earlier brethren, as even simple mechanical traps require an average level intelligence. To add to the evil flavor of the kobold, they will even have murder holes close by to watch from and then they will pour flaming oil, shoot arrows or even drop poisonous insects on the victims of their traps.  Who the hell would think of dropping a tarantula on someone stuck in a pit, already skewered by a spike?

Kobolds, that’s who.

3.5e - Kobold

Kobold, 1st-Level Warrior
Size/Type: Small Humanoid (Reptilian)
Hit Dice: 1d8 (4 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +1 natural, +2 leather), touch 12, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/-4
Attack: Spear +1 melee (1d6-1/×3) or sling +3 ranged (1d3-1)
Full Attack: Spear +1 melee (1d6-1/×3) or sling +3 ranged (1d3-1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +1, Will -1
Abilities: Str 9, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Skills: Craft (trapmaking) +2, Hide +6, Listen +2, Move Silently +2, Profession (miner) +2, Search +2, Spot +2
Feats: Alertness
Environment: Temperate forests
Organization: Gang (4-9), band (10-100 plus 100% noncombatants plus 1 3rd-level sergeant per 20 adults and 1 leader of 4th-6th level), warband (10-24 plus 2-4 dire weasels), tribe (40-400 plus 1 3rd-level sergeant per 20 adults, 1 or 2 lieutenants of 4th or 5th level, 1 leader of 6th-8th level, and 5-8 dire weasels)
Challenge Rating: ¼
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Usually lawful evil
Advancement: By character class
Level Adjustment: +0

3e Monster Manual, 2000 WotC
3.5e Monster Manual, 2003 WotC

3e gives the kobold some buffs that, while not making them much of a threat when there are only 5-10, makes them much more interesting when you run into a band of 50 kobolds.  They now have an average of 4 HP instead of 2, and can each have a maximum of 8 if the DM so wishes.  That’s a pretty big increase for what amounts to fodder. I get that a party of five 4th levels character can still defeat them, but when they attack in large numbers, you better have those AoE spells ready.

The pesky little lizards also get a nice buff to their AC.  An AC15 makes them harder to hit than in previous editions. Though, once you get past level 5 you’re probably only going to miss on a 1. The real threat is for lower level characters without magic weapons and limited spells, they will need to think out there tactics very carefully when they are being attacked by a warband of kobolds. If one character gets surrounded by 5 or 6 kobolds, it could result in death in just a round.

We like the new organization breakdown; since the kobold are listed as 1st level warriors, the DM gets valuable information just glancing at the top of their stat block. No rummaging around stat blocks trying to figure out when you are supposed to use this creature. It’s a nice quality of life change, and one that all DMs appreciate. Our stats are also better starting to mirror how things are done in 5e, and makes altering monsters from past editions to 5e a lot easier.

These little guys were released in the first Monster Manual and are still at war with the Gnomes. Interestingly, the Gnomes have a bit of text that states that they try to not kill their enemies… unless they are kobolds. Which is pretty rude seeing how it is the Gnomes’ fault for this hate anyways. Visually, our kobolds are looking more reptile like than a dog, which is a huge relief, but the Monster Manual makes mention that they speak Draconic like a yapping dog… when will this injustice ever end?

More of these guys were released in Unearthed Arcana (2004): the Aquatic, Arctic, Desert, Earth & Jungle kobold with slight reflavoring and adjusted stats.

4e - Kobold

Kobold Minion - Level 1 Minion
Small natural humanoid, XP 25 
Initiative +3  / Senses Perception +1, darkvision 
HP A minion dies when hit by an attack that deals damage 
AC 15; Fortitude 11, Reflex 13, Will 11; see also trap sense 
Speed
Spear (standard; at-will) • Weapon +5 vs. AC; 2 damage. 
Spear (standard; at-will) • Weapon Range 10/20; +5 vs. AC; 2 damage. 
Shifty (minor, at-will) The kobold shifts 1 square as a minor action. 
Trap Sense The kobold gains a +2 bonus to all defenses against traps. 
Alignment Evil  / Languages Draconic 
Skills Stealth +5, Thievery +5 
Str 8 (-1)  Dex 16 (+3)  Wis 12 (+1)  Con 12 (+1)  Int 9 (-1)  Cha 10 (+0) 
Equipment hide armor, light shield, 3 spears 

Our kobolds have grown into… minions! This means death the moment someone sneezes a bit too hard around them. While I know that that is a bit of an unfair characterization when they had several different versions of kobold, it still stands that the kobold really and truly is just a minion in any game. Very few kobolds are going to be much of a challenge unless you get 40 of them in a room together, and even then… one fireball and they all go poof.

Monster Manual, 2008 WotC

In the Monster Manual, we only get but a small chunk of information, but now they resemble the dragons they now revere and worship, and if the dragon pays them enough attention, the dragon will lead these little cowards. They are sneaky and love their traps, and if they fail leading adventurers into a trap they will sneak up and attack them in huge numbers. In the Monster Manual they detail several different kobolds for your group of unfortunate adventurers to be ambushed by:

Kobold Skirmisher, Level 1 Skirmisher - 27 HP
A mean kobold built for close fighting with their Mob Attacks, +1 to attack rolls for each kobold adjacent to their target, and their ability to shift around their opponents allows them to move about the battlefield causing havoc. When the going gets too tough, they’ll run away through trap-leaden tunnels.

Kobold Slinger, Level 1 Artillery - 24 HP
Ranged attacks get deadly in the hands of these badasses. They have a Special Attack where they can launch specialized ammunition that can immobilize, inflict fire damage or cause a penalty to attack rolls.

Kobold Dragonshield, Level 2 Soldier - 36 HP
The first kobold with a decent AC of 18 and a nice boost to their HP. They not only get Mob Attacks, but whenever their enemy shifts around them, they can immediately shift with their enemy. It’s pretty impressive for these little guys to be following you around the battlefield when all you want to do is get away. They also get resistance to a specific damage type based on the dragon they serve, i.e. blue dragon gives lightning resistance.

Kobold Wyrmpriest, Level 3 Artillery (Leader) - 36 HP
Our first kobold that can truly be feared with it’s magical attack, healing abilities and even a dragon breath attack. These guys are no joke, and they are happy to remind you of that when they shoot their breath attack that deals 1d10 + 3 of any type of damage that the dragon they revere is.

Kobold Slyblade, Level 4 Lurker - 42 HP
The final kobold in the Monster Manual, and he is certainly the last kobold you want to run into. When they have minion kobolds about, they can use their Sly Dodge to let a minion kobold take that damage for them. This kills the minion, but leaves the Slyblade free of damage, he then gets to go in and start delivering damage. Sneaky little dragon.

The 4e Kobolds are pretty awesome, and don’t forget that these guys may have a dragon as their leader, so once you’re done getting blasted by a kobold fire breath, you are already warmed up for the real thing.

5e - Kobold

Kobold / Small humanoid (kobold), lawful evil
Armor Class 12 / Hit Points 5 (2d6 - 2) / Speed 30 ft.
STR 7 (-2) | DEX 15 (+2) | CON 9 (-1) | INT 8 (-1) | WIS 7 (-2) | CHA 8 (-1)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8 / Languages Common, Draconic
Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the kobold has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Pack Tactics. The kobold has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the kobold's allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.
Dagger. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Sling. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) bludgeoning damage.

So now we come to the latest incarnation of the mighty kobold. While it is very much like its predecessor, a small little weakling, it has several things that help it shine. Mostly its Pack Tactics ability that gives them a greater chance of hitting their targets. Though, they should stay out of the light as..

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Welcome to our newest series of articles on the No INT Here blog! We are going to be changing pace just a bit and start looking back at the past editions with our rose-colored glasses, daydreaming about everything that once was in DnD and how we might be able to update those elements for 5e.

Up until 4e, cursed magic items could be found quite prevalently in the DMG. Starting with 4e, few to none were listed, instead a chart of curses was made available to the DM to use when they choose to be a right, proper bastard. Some may think the correlation is that Gygax liked being a dick to his players and led the charge on this, but that only explains 1e, not 2e or 3e as he was no longer with TSR/WotC during those years. While we aren’t sure why there was such a proliferation of cursed items, we have to admit it… we kind of like them. Some of them are pretty funny, others are odd, and some are just plain mean. At the end of this post, you can check out our updated versions of these cursed magic items for 5e.

Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity

AD&D, Dungeon Master’s Guide - 1979

This broad leather band appears to be a normal belt used commonly by all sorts of adventurers, but of course it is magical. If buckled on, it will immediately change the sex of its wearer to the opposite gender. Its magical curse fulfilled, the belt then loses all power. The original sex of the character cannot be restored by any normal means, although a wish might do so (50% chance), and a powerful being can alter the situation, i.e., it takes a god-like creature to set matters aright with certainty. 10% of these girdles actually remove all sex from the wearer.

What a great cursed item. For a little context, we need to go back to the time of AD&D. The game was almost completely dominated by teenage boys and men in the 70’s and 80’s, so almost every character played was a male. For a 14 year old boy, the thought of playing a female character was a totally foreign idea. So, when you put on this belt, hoping you get a +1 to your AC only to be turned into a female was mortifying. Seriously, I can’t think of anything worst for a 14 year old boy playing in the 80’s having to play a female. Considering the average female character in AD&D is portrayed as wearing bikini chainmail, I think most characters would get killed in the first fight because they’d be too busy playing with their own breasts.

Thank god times have changed. Or at least I think and hope they have. It’s a little easier to think of someone playing a different sex than the one they started with. While there are many factors to take into account when this item is activated, I would say your armor would be the biggest issue. As we all know, men and women come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few fundamental differences between the two. I would argue that no armor the person is wearing would fit upon buckling on the girdle. Players would have to take off their armor or suffer some sort of disadvantage to their attack due to the ill fitting armor. Abilities would stay the same, since the item says nothing about stat changes. At least they weren’t being totally sexist when they wrote this.

The final interesting part of this item is the fact that there is a 10% chance that ALL sex is removed from the weaver. I suppose this means they become non-binary, though I’m not 100% on that though. Sex changes can be a very sensitive subject, and the DM should probably check with the player and even the table as a whole, before moving forward with these types of items.

Ring of Delusions

AD&D, Dungeon Master’s Guide 1979

A delusion ring convinces the wearer that it is some other sort of ring—whatever sort the wearer really desires. The wearer will be completely convinced that the ring is actually one with other magical properties, and he will unconsciously use his abilities of any sort (including those of other magical items available) to produce a result commensurate with the supposed properties of the delusion ring. The DM determines how successful the self-delusion is, as well as how observers are affected and what they will observe. The ring can be removed at any time.

Another great cursed item, especially nowadays when roleplaying your character is now just as, if not more, important than combat. There are a couple ways to handle this item, depending on what the DM wants to do. First, the DM could talk to the player and ask them what ring they want it to be, obviously not telling them it’s a ring of delusions. Maybe they tell the player it is a “special” ring that will become whatever type that the player most desires. This is where it can get fun. The DM can ask the player to give a few small examples of what they are doing when they “activate” the ring. The player will hopefully act out some of the smaller details of what he is doing and the players around him can act accordingly. Now it’s up to the table to say something to the player or else the character will think everything is going as planned.

But what does act accordingly mean? Does the wear think they have gone invisible and start strolling up to the monster thinking they can’t be seen? The party members who can see this given their vantage point may wonder what the hell the character is doing, but once again, do they say anything to the player? The user may say that he/she used their invisibility ring and is going up to flank the monster. Now the DM can get involved depending on what the rest of the party decides to do. Does the DM have him roll a stealth check? If they truly think they are invisible, could the DM interpret that as a form of stealth? Maybe. Now the party will wonder why the player is trying to be sneaky. The possibilities are endless and can lead to some pretty funny, and deadly, scenarios.

Finally, the player’s belief that they are using the ring as it was meant leads to some unintended consequences. Let’s say the player wants a ring of fireballs and the DM decides to allow it (as a homebrew item of course). The player recently became a 5th level wizard and really loves the fireball. (As we all do!) He wants to have the ability to cast it more than once and that’s why he is dying to have the ring of fireballs. So the party goes into battle and the first thing the wizard does is cast fireball… From his new ring. A bright flash of light shoots out from the wizard’s outstretched arm and slams into the horde of kobolds. The player is ecstatic that it worked and saved the spell slot.

But based on the items description the player actually used his spell since he will unconsciously use his abilities of any sort to produce a result commensurate with the supposed properties of the delusion ring. So most likely, both the player and the party will think the ring worked. So as the battle rages on and the party needs something to turn the tide, the wizard decides it’s time to use that spell slot and crush the remaining kobolds. He tells the party members to disengage and run back to him, which they all do. The player then tries to cast the fireball on the rest of the kobolds and… nothing happens. And now, the kobolds take their chance and rain death all around the retreating heroes. Hilarity and the end of a campaign all wrapped up in one little ring!

Phylactery of Monstrous Attention

AD&D, Dungeon Master’s Guide - 1979

While this arm wrapping appears to be some sort of beneficial device, it actually draws the attention of supernatural creatures of exactly the opposite alignment of the cleric wearing it. This results in the cleric being plagued by powerful and hostile creatures whenever he or she is in an area where such creatures are or can appear. If the cleric is of 10th or higher level, the attention of his or her deity's most powerful enemy will be drawn, so as to cause this being to interfere directly. For example, a lawful good cleric attracts various demons and eventually the notice of Orcus or Demogorgon. Once donned, a phylactery of monstrous attention cannot be removed without an exorcism spell and then a quest must be performed to re-establish the cleric in his or her alignment.

This item only targets the Cleric, and is just plain mean. While it says nothing about it in the DMG, I assume this item would only be found by a higher level cleric to add some serious flavor to the game. The simple mention of Orcus and Demogorgon should lead the DM to realize how strong of a cursed item this is. Because, just as it adds the potential for a huge battle between the Prince of the Demons and his Minions against an 11th Level Cleric in his own Temple and his followers, it can be just as destructive for a lower level cleric, and probably even more so. The creatures the cleric would have to face will continue to get stronger and stronger as the cleric continues to gain levels. This can get deadly fast. Especially if the cleric doesn’t realize his new fashion statement is trying to kill him.

The term “supernatural creatures” gives a great deal of creatures for the DM to choose from. Obviously all undead fall into this category, but looking at 5e, this could end up being all sorts of creatures, including angels (for those playing Evil characters), Mephits, Aberrations of all shape and size, etc. Supernatural creatures aren’t defined as a specific type of creature in 5e, so I think the DM has a decent amount of wiggle room. Obviously things like humanoids wouldn’t fall under this term, but many others would.

In early editions, alignment was determined very strictly. So the opposite of a lawful good creatures was only at chaotic evil creature, so on and so forth. Neutral was an exception, where it was only determined by the good and evil portion of alignment. Since alignment was been watered down over the editions (wrongfully so), I would say that opposite alignment should be determined only by good or evil. Once again, this would open up a whole slew of creatures for the player to have to deal with.

Finally, we aren’t sure why the cleric needs to go on a quest to '‘re-establish the cleric in his or her alignment.” The item says nothing about the the cleric’s alignment being effected in such a way that the cleric needs to prove his worthiness to his deity. Sure, it can be a fun continuation of the campaign if the cleric ever gets the damn thing off, but the reason why such a quest needs to be missing from the description. Though, if the party wants free experience… they may force the cleric to keep on wearing his armwraps.

Bowl of Watery Death

AD&D, Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979

This device looks exactly like a bowl of commanding water elementals, right down to the color, design, magical radiation, etc. However, when it is filled with water, the wizard must successfully save vs. spell or be shrunk to the size of a small ant and plunged into the center of the bowl. If salt water is poured into the bowl, the saving throw suffers a -2 penalty.

The victim will drown in 1d6 + 2 rounds, unless magic is used to save him, for he cannot be physically removed from the bowl of watery death except by magical means: animal growth, enlarge, or wish are the only spells that will free the victim and restore normal size; a potion of growth poured into the water will have the same effect; a sweet water potion will grant the victim another saving throw (i.e., a chance that the curse magic of the bowl works only briefly). If the victim drowns, death is permanent, no resurrection is possible, and even a wish will not work.

This item is funny as it is deadly. Since the bowl will be identified as a Bowl of Water Elementals, the player would be completely unaware of its true nature. If they fill it up immediately upon finding it in a hoard they are pretty screwed, but at least the other party members have a chance to save them. If used for the first time in the heat of battle, they are really fucked. A water elemental is a pretty cool creature to summon and can be very helpful in any battle. Being shrunk to the size of an ant and drowning is not as helpful in a battle.

Based on the description, if using in 5e, we would translate that only magic users (wizard, sorcerer and warlock) would be able to use the bowl. Upon filling the bowl and failing their save (probably an Intelligence save, which at least would give most spell casters a slight advantage) they shrink to the size of an ant and are dropped immediately into the bowl. For context, let’s use the carpenter ant. The carpenter ant is one of the largest ants for their species. They are usually around 11-15 mm in size, and are a maximum of 20mm in length. That’s really small.

Now even if you could pluck something that small out of a bowl of water (which would be quite the sight in the middle of a battle), you can’t because the bowl specifically states that you can only be removed by magical means. Considering that your primary magic user is most likely the one that will be using the bowl, you better hope there is another wizard or sorcerer in the party, since they are the only ones with the Enlarge spell in 5e. I’m not sure how many people have that spell ready/memorized, but I’d argue that it’s not that many. Death being permanent with literally no option to bring you back is proof that cursed magic items are the best passive aggressive way a DM can get rid of that annoying wizard in the party.

A couple questions that I have regarding this item that would need to be clarified when translated into 5e. First, since the player is most likely the one holding the bowl when they pour water into it, I would think they bowl would fall to the ground with the player, now the size of an ant, inside it. I would assume the magical properties of the bowl would keep the water from spilling out, but let’s state that in the description. (It’s assumed you can’t just pour the water out, but let’s make sure that is stated for all those RAW people out there) Would a potion of water breathing poured into bowl prevent the player from drawing while the party tries to figure out how to remove the player from the bowl? How about a potion of swimming. Would that prevent you from drowning? The original item is very specific in its description of what will and will not work, so you’d need to have the same detail in the new description, with maybe a few tweaks.

Broom of Animated Attack

3.5e, Dungeon Masters Guide - 2003

This item is indistinguishable in appearance from a normal broom. It is identical to a broom of flying by all tests short of attempted use. Using it reveals that a broom of animated attack is a very nasty item.

If a command (“Fly,” “Go,” “Giddy-up,” or some similar word) is spoken, the broom does a loop-the-loop with its hopeful rider, dumping him on his head from 1d4+5 feet off the ground (no falling damage, since the fall is less than 10 feet). The broom then attacks the victim, swatting the face with the straw or twig end and beating him with the handle end.

The broom gets two attacks per round with each end (two swats with the straw and two with the handle, for a total of four attacks per round). It attacks with a +5 bonus on each attack roll. The straw end causes a victim to be blinded for 1 round when it hits. The handle deals 1d6 points of damage when it hits. The broom has AC 13, 18 hit points, and hardness 4.

This item is comical, but can cause some serious damage to lower level characters that think they’ve scored a broom of flying. It’s a pretty straightforward cursed item. Identified as a broom of flying, the hopeful player will most likely jump on the broom and attempt to take off for the clear blue skies. Of course, the second they do this, they probably figure out this isn’t any ordinary broom of flying. Instead of taking off like a scene from Harry Potter, the broom will dump them, head first onto the ground while doing a loop. We can see by the fact that there will be no fall damage to the player that the writers were having a good day when they wrote this and had their morning coffee.

Now that you’ve landed on your head, the real fun begins. The broom then will start to beat the shit out of you. If the broom has the high initiative, you’re in trouble on its first attack. Not only does it get four attacks, but it has a bonus because you are prone AND it gets +5 to all those attacks. To make matter worse, if you get hit with the straw side of the broom, you are blinded for a round. So now you’re prone, blinded and getting hit with the equivalent of a quarterstaff twice per round. Granted, a normal size party can destroy the broom pretty easily in one round since it’s basically a CR 1/2 creature, but for the player on the ground, it really sucks.

Robe of Vermin

3.5e, Dungeon Masters Guide - 2003

The wearer notices nothing unusual when the robe is donned, other than that it offers great magical defense (as a cloak of resistance +4). However, as soon as he is in a situation requiring concentration and action against hostile opponents, the true nature of the garment is revealed: The wearer immediately suffers a multitude of bites from the insects that magically infest the garment. He must cease all other activities in order to scratch, shift the robe, and generally show signs of the extreme discomfort caused by the bites and movement of these pests.

The wearer takes a –5 penalty on initiative checks and a –2 penalty on all attack rolls, saves, and skill checks. If he tries to cast a spell, he must make a Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level) or lose the spell.

This cursed item is pretty gross, upon first putting on the robe, the player will be very excited for their robe of +4 resistance. If the DM wants to make it even more tempting to keep from removing it, then they could make it resistant to multiple things. That said, it would also make sense for the robe to only be able to be worn by primary spell casters (Wizard, Sorcerer and Warlock). It wouldn’t make any sense for a fighter to be able to wear the cloak and only get its benefits.

When the spellcaster decides to use an action, things get ugly. Apparently insects start crawling all over the robe, and start biting the user. The image in my mind is quite a horrifying one. Since I have started writing this, I have been scratching at phantom bites all over my arms and neck. If it’s this bad for me, and I’m just thinking about it, imagine how bad it would be for the person wearing the robe.

Something missing from the items description is how the player stops the insects from biting him. There seems to be nothing that prevents the wearer from just taking the robe off. That seems way too easy for any cursed item. Where in previous editions it was damn near impossible to get rid of cursed items, things seemingly are left open to interpretation by the DM. There should be some sort of requirement or penalty to remove the robe, but I guess that is left up to the DM to decide.

The later editions (4e and 5e) take away the fun of actual cursed items. There are no official cursed magic items in the DMG, but the DM has the option to place a curse, or a detriment if it is an artifact, for an item. How boring. We say bring back the cursed magic items. Yes, you can find a million homebrew magic items throughout the internet. We say bring back some of these and other infamous cursed items.

To help speed things along, we went ahead and made our own 5e versions of these items.

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For our next step into the Deep Dive series, we are going to take a break from the spells and move into the realm of character classes. The best place to start is the Barbarian, which, in our opinion (Chris' opinion), started off as the most overpowered class, and has continued that tradition up to and including 5e.  So let’s take a look at the men in loincloths, the Barbarian.

The Barbarian was introduced in Unearthed Arcana for AD&D in 1985.  A subclass of the Fighter, the Barbarian quickly became the go to “hit things” class in the game.  As they progressed through the editions, the class quickly became a fan favorite in the Fighter class (replacing the Paladin, who, while they got spells, does a great deal less damage than the Barbarian). Some of the more important key stats for the Barbarian class by edition are listed below. Please note that some of the editions have a ridiculous amount of information on the Barbarian class - looking at you 2e - so we are only hitting on some of the information we felt was most important. If you feel like we are missing a key piece of knowledge or have a delightful story of being in a loincloth, please let us know in the comments below!

AD&D Barbarian

Key Features

• HP Die: d12 through 8th level, then 4 HP per level
• Saving Throw Bonuses: +4 to poison; +3 to paralysis, death magic, petrifaction and polymorphism; +2 to rod, staff, and breath weapon attacks.
• Must be Human, can be any non-lawful Alignment
Hatred of magic, including magic items and magic users
• Can hit creatures immune to non-magical attacks starting at 4th level
• Summon the Barbarian Horde at 8th level

The first incarnation of the Barbarian felt more like a combination of Tarzan and a Viking. They were skilled in running, jumping, climbing and a whole bunch of other skills that were extremely helpful in an unforgiving wilderness. But they were also tough and hardy warriors, many times wielding a shield and an axe, with animal skins for armor.  This combination of skills made them incredibly powerful in outdoor surroundings, but less so in dungeon and city settings.

UNEARTHED ARCANA, 1985 TSR, Inc.

The hatred of magic in AD&D puts them at a grave disadvantage in the early levels.  They refuse to use magical weapons or armor, and will go out of their way to destroy any magical items they may find in their early adventures. Of course, this is immediately watered down starting at 3rd level, where they can start using potions, and at 4th level where they can use magic weapons. They still dislike like magic users with the passion of a thousand burning suns, but it seems like such a waste to take such an interesting disadvantage, and eliminate it right away.

Going further, this hatred of magic puts them at odds with magic users of all types and makes for an interesting party dichotomy. While Clerics aren’t hated as much, they are still viewed with suspicion. What we also found interesting is that for a class that hates magic so intensely, they are given the ability to detect illusions and magic starting at first level. It seems odd that a class that shuns magic, and therefore knows very little about it, would have a 25% chance at 1st level to be able to detect magic, but I suppose it helps them track down those artifacts to destroy.

And finally, we reach the Barbarian Horde, an insanely OP ability the Barbarian gains at 8th level. If the Barbarian is in their natural terrain, they can summon a horde of Barbarians numbering the Barbarian experience-point total divided by 1000. So at 8th level the Barbarian can summon 275 of his comrades to assist in any number of ways. While it takes a week for the horde to arrive, and they will only follow a very specific set of directions, imagine having a small army of 500 Barbarians, when you are only 9th level no less, helping you storm the walls of a castle for a number of weeks equal to your level! (To be fair though, level 9 is a MASSIVE achievement in AD&D and other Fighters were getting castles at this point.)

2e Barbarian

Before we dive into the 2e version, let us say that TSR went full blown into the money making business.  There are handbooks for every character class (including the Ninja, which I totally forgot about and will be getting soon) and the Barbarian is no exception.  At 134 pages, the information can become overwhelming.  I’ve been struggling to plod through, and I can tell you it’s been painful at times. I now see that the layout of D&D hardcovers has always been horrible, whether by TSR or WotC. Why do I find the spell progression chart three pages after we talked about spells for the shaman, and are now in the subsection of Homeland terrain? Please, please, please hire a halfway decent editor WotC.

There is no way we can hit everything here, but hopefully we can hit upon the highlights. It was a difficult decision to decide on what to put in and what to leave out.

Key Features

HP Die: 1d12 through 8th level, then 3 HP per level
Addition of Shaman subclass
Fighter/Cleric Kits

So while there is a TON more information available now, we are going to focus on a few main things - the Shaman, Homeland Terrain, and the Fighter/Cleric Kits.  There is just too much information to discuss (unless we wanted the article to also be 134 pages long) and these are probably the two biggest additions to the class.

Complete Barbarian’s Handbook, 1995 TSR

But before we dive in, I wanted to point out one interesting change from AD&D to 2e. Barbarians can now be lawful.  I think this is an underrated, but necessary and important change for the class.  Yes, when I normally think of a Barbarian, I think Chaotic.  But Barbarians have a very strict class structure within the horde, so lawful makes a lot of sense as an alignment option.

Now, onto the meat of the 2e Barbarian.

Shaman
The shaman is a combo spellcaster/fighter. He starts with 1d10 hit die. He’s basically a Barbarian lite and a pretty damn good spellcaster.  They also have the same access to Barbarian armor and weapons.  Again, a pretty good spellcaster that can take a punch.

How and what spells the Shaman gets is simplistic and slightly confusing.  There are only a couple of small paragraphs that describe what spells the Shaman gets and how they get them. The first paragraph describes how a Shaman gets access to their spells.

”Shamans have access to a limited number of spheres. If the DM allows a shaman to worship a specific mythos, additional sphere limitations may apply. A nature deity, for instance, may allow major access only to the animal and plant spheres. Some deities may allow spells normally denied to shamans; a fire deity might give major access to the sun and elemental spheres but deny access to the charm and necromantic spheres.”

Major access means that they can cast all levels of spells of that sphere, while minor means they can only access the 1st through 3rd level spells of that sphere.  I assume it is up to the DM to decide what access the Shaman has, based on what deity they choose.  This requires the Shaman and the DM to have an intimate knowledge of the deities, something that wasn’t as prevalent in old school D&D.  Maybe it was just me and my friends, but the Gods were something we gave very little thought too.  Sure, they released a Deities and Demigods book for AD&D, but I didn’t know that many people who actually used it. So based on what deity the Shaman chooses, the access to spells was listed as follows:

Major access: All, animal, combat, divination, healing, plant.
Minor access: Charm, elemental, necromantic, protection, sun, weather.
No access: Astral, creation, guardian, summoning.

Once again, the wording of this list is a bit confusing. When they say Major Access to All, they don’t mean they get access to ALL spells, but rather a set of utility spells that ALL Clerics/Shamans get access too. Yea, it’s a bit stupid the way it’s worded. The No Access list is interesting, and I agree wholeheartedly with not allowing astral spells, since the backwater shaman would have little to no idea of the astral plane.  Lastly, Shamans cannot use scrolls, since they cannot read or write because… of course they’re illiterate… I guess?

Shamans also have the ability to turn undead.  They are not as adept at doing so as the Cleric, being able to turn undead at two levels less than the Cleric can.  This seems weird to me for some reason, I have to wonder how much exposure the Shaman would have to undead in certain terrains, and feels a bit off to me. All Shamans must use their talismans to turn undead, much like a Cleric uses his holy symbol. But here’s what gets me when looking at the Barbarian guide for 2e. Where spells for the Shaman get a couple paragraphs that leave you wondering, the talisman gets over a page of information.  It goes into some detail about what the talisman can be and what happens if they lose it.  I don’t remember seeing anything about the Cleric losing his holy symbol in any of the editions and it makes me think that the writers really think that people who play Barbarians are complete morons.

Fighter/Cleric Kits
Kits are the first foray into both backstory and class archetypes. Each Barbarian picks a kit, either a Fighter or Cleric kit, during the character creation process and it determines a wide variety of skills and proficiencies available to the specific kits. Below is a list of what a Barbarian Kit consists of:

  1. Description  - Appearance

  2. Requirements - Ability scores needed for the kit

  3. Homeland Terrain - Where they live

  4. Role - Barbarian belief system

  5. Secondary Skills - Specific skills the barbarian may or may not have

  6. Weapon Proficiencies - Weapons they can use. Some kits have a required weapon

  7. Wealth Options - Player’s starting funds

  8. Armor and Equipment  - The starting weapon and armor the barbarian starts with for free

  9. Special Benefits - Advantages specific to the kits chosen

  10. Special Hindrances - Disadvantages specific to the kits chosen

  11. Spheres (Clerics only) - Spell types the cleric has access to

  12. Talisman (Clerics only) - suggested type of talisman

Note - Where it says Clerics only, it is referring to the fact that they also include reflavoring for Clerics to be Barbarian-like or from a Barbarian society. They make a note that Wizards are too sophisticated to be a Barbarian, and Rogues can only be from the city.

This is nothing mind blowing for those that have only played 5e, but when it came out, it added a whole new dimension to characters.  A character now had a story before they started playing.  The kits also introduced the idea of what we now call archetypes.  Previously, subclasses were actually just classes of their own, such as Fighter subclasses were Ranger and Paladin, but they were, for all intents and purposes, their own unique class. These kits provided flavor to the Fighter/Cleric class in the form of choosing a Barbarian Kit.

Below is a list of all the Kits. The ones we found most interesting also have an edited description of them, and you can find the full descriptions of all the kits in the 2nd Edition The Complete Barbarian's Handbook. There is no way to go into much depth on each kit, but this brief synopsis will hopefully help you understand what color each one brings to the game.

Brushrunner (Fighter) - Nearly naked running through fields Barbarians.
Brute (Fighter) - Caveman Barbarians.
Forest Lord (Fighter) - The Ranger Barbarians.
Islander (Fighter) - Jamaican Barbarians.
Plainsrider (Fighter) - Think Githyanki Barbarians.
Dreamwalker (Cleric) - Dropping peyote with your spirit animal Barbarians.
Flamespeaker (Cleric) - Pyromaniac Barbarians.
Seer (Cleric) - Arrogant Fortune Teller Barbarians.
Spiritist (Cleric) - I’d rather be a Druid Barbarians.
Witchman (Cleric) - I see ghosts Barbarians.

Ravager (Fighter)

The Ultimate Raging Barbarians.

Culled from the strongest and most bloodthirsty members of their tribes, Ravagers serve as bodyguards and manhunters, trained to kill with weapons as well as their bare hands. So violent is their reputation, Ravagers are even feared by their fellow tribesmen, who consider them unpredictable and perhaps mentally unbalanced. . . A strong sense of pride is perhaps their biggest flaw; he who insults or offends a Ravager may pay with his blood, if not his life. In many barbarian societies, Ravagers are considered the personal property of the leaders. They are bound to obey the leader’s every command and may even be traded to other tribes. Ravagers often resist such servitude, abandoning their homelands for the life of a nomad. . . He is contemptuous of civilization and has no patience for intellectuals. He considers hygiene the province of the weak; he takes pride in his mud-caked skin, his filthy loincloth, and his greasy hair. . . The Ravager’s mood swings are dram’s a list of all atic, even frightening. One moment, he may return a wounded bird to its nest; the next, he may fly into a rage because he has misplaced his axe. He smashes trees with his fists and screams at the top of his lungs, then dissolve into laughter if a companion trips and falls.

Wizard Slayer (Fighter)

Magic is the worst Barbarians.

The Wizard Slayer has few interests aside from destroying evil magic. He cooperates with his companions as circumstances dictate, but he is always seeking evil practitioners of magic. . . Grim and brooding, he may go for days without saying a word, brightening only at the prospect of encountering one of his hated foes. Wary of all forms of outworld magic, he avoids associating with the magic-wielding members of his party unless forced by circumstance.

Medicine Man/Woman (Cleric)

The healer, spiritual advisor and teacher of the tribe Barbarians.

The Medicine Man assumes the role of caretaker for any group with whom he aligns. He gathers healing herbs for the wounded, stays up through the night with the sick, and presides over funeral rites for the dead. While the concerns of outworld companions may be beyond his understanding, he is quick to lend a sympathetic ear. Despite his crude manner, many find his mere presence a source of comfort. The Medicine Man is unusually reflective for a barbarian, spending hours brooding over the cruelty of life or his failure to heal to someone in his care. On the battlefield, he fights fiercely and selflessly, risking his life to aid endangered companions.

2e really helped redefine a Barbarian and focused on where they came from as opposed to just being a class and abilities. It’s also fascinating how you could pick up being a Shaman, Fighter or a Cleric Barbarian… which is a weird thing to think about.

3.5e Barbarian

Thanks to whatever god you pray to… I prefer Tempus, after the insanity that was the 2e Barbarian, 3.5e returns to its senses and gives a complete class description in under 3 pages.  Added to that is the fact that there have been some additions to the class that take the class to another level. The rage mechanic once again pushes the Barbarian into OP territory, lest we thought he was slipping in ferocity.

Key Features

Hit Dice: 12 + Con Modifier at first level, d12 + Con Modifier every level
Fast Movement
Rage Mechanics
Illiteracy

First and foremost, the Barbarian is no longer allowed to be of Lawful alignment. Sigh. This won’t be the last time they change this rule, and it does get tiresome after a while. I’ve argued why I think the lawful alignment works in 2e.  Though there is an interesting little tidbit added to the last paragraph on alignment for the Barbarian. It states that any Barbarian that becomes Lawful loses their ability to rage, and then becomes an Ex-Barbarian. Pretty stiff penalty, but they do get to keep all their other abilities. That said, Chaotic still makes the most sense for a Barbarian.

Fast Movement is an interesting ability added to the Barbarian, but it does get bogged down in the rules that come along with it. The 3.5 PHB describes the fast movement skill as such:

A barbarian’s land speed is fast than the norm for his race by +10 feet. This benefit applies only when he is wearing no armor, light armor, or medium armor and not carrying a heavy load. Apply this bonus before modifying the barbarian’s speed because of any load carried or armor worn. For example, a human barbarian has a speed of 40 feet, rather than 30 feet, when wearing light or no armor. When wearing medium armor or carrying a medium load, his speed drops to 30 feet. A halfling barbarian has a speed of 30 feet, rather than 20 feet, in light or no armor. When wearing medium armor or carrying a medium load, his speed drops to 20 feet.

Keeping track of this may seem easier in the time of D&D Beyond, but back when 3.5e was released, it was a bit more difficult. Sure, what armor you were wearing is easy enough to track. But weight load is an entirely different beast. It was rare that someone wrote down the weight of every single item they had in their backpack, and even if they did, then they’d have to track additions and subtraction for items to see how if that changed the weight load. It’s not as easy as it sounds, trust me.  Also, can you picture a halfling barbarian? They sound adorable.

Player’s Handbook, 2003 WotC

The big add in 3.5e was the addition of the Rage mechanic. Now, the Barbarian could become even more powerful in battle. Rage increased the Barbarian’s Strength by 4, Constitution by 4, +2 to Will saves (Wisdom save), but reduces their AC by 2. The Con increase is pretty nice, since it increases the Barbarian’s hit points by 2 per level. These are not temporary HP either.  For as long as the rage lasts, the hit points are treated like normal HP. Speaking of length, the rage lasts for 3 rounds plus their con modifier. The Barbarian can use his rage only once per encounter, and can only use it once a day until 4th level.  At 4th and every other four levels after, the barbarian gains the ability to use rage one more time per day. He can end the rage before the encounter ends, but the penalty is pretty stiff if you are still in battle; -2 to Str and Dex and can’t charge or run.

The improvements to the Barbarian in 3.5e vastly improve the Barbarian from the previous editions.  Rage is a huge addition to the class, and really helps shape the Barbarian through the next two editions. I also want to take this time to complain about how Barbarians can’t Read or Write unless you spend 2 skill points to give them literacy. Why do they think that every angry person with an axe can’t read?

4e Barbarian

Key Features

Hit Points: 15 + Con, gain an additional 6HP per level
Rage Powers
Huge variety of abilities

Oh 4e, the ill-favored middle child of DnD. While the system may be lambasted for being too video game-y, I enjoy how they went about creating unique powers for every class, and the Barbarian is no different, starting with the Rage powers.

Rage, in the past edition, was a set effect that did a specific thing and maybe at higher levels got a little bit better, in 4e they introduce a wide variety of choices and flavor for your Rage. Starting at level 1, you got one use of your Daily Evocation (which is your Rage) and you had four different Evocations you could choose from to modify your Rage, this could be a flat bonus to your melee damage to temporary HP every time you hit to more movement every time you were raging, and your Rage lasted for the entire encounter or if you entered a new Rage.

Player’s Handbook 2, 2009 WotC

From 1st to 4th level you could Rage once a day, hence it being a Daily Evocation, starting at 5th level you got to choose another Daily Evocation, so you could now Rage twice a day, and these new 5th level Evocations had different effects like: make a secondary attack, regenerate HP every round, or deal lightning damage to everyone around you. Your rages were tied directly to the number of Daily Evocations you got and by Level 20 you had 4 uses of Rage a day and they all did something different! That’s pretty awesome and a lot better than just hitting things with the same mechanic over and over all day.

The other part of being a Barbarian in 4e meant you had a ton of options besides just raging and hitting things. You had different Daily and At-Will powers that you could use to help you in combat. These abilities were more than just you hit something and deal..

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You know what’s a blast? That first time you get to launch that orb of angry fire at a horde of kobolds and laugh maniacally at the face your GM makes when he informs you that they are all dead.

The Fireball, one of the greatest spells ever crafted to ensure that people were going to have a bad day on the Material Plane. But just how did it get its start? And how has it changed through the many editions of DnD? In AD&D, the Fireball is a 3rd level spell that can pack a huge punch at later levels. . . not so much when you first get it though, plus you never wanted to cast it when there was treasure to be found.

The history of the fireball in tabletop gaming reaches back to 1970, where the first incarnation can be found in a war game created by Leonard Patt (a good, albeit quick, background on Patt’s fireball can be found here). We aren’t going to get into the debate about how Gygax stole the fireball, and many many other things, from Patt’s game. My opinion is that tabletop gaming was, and still is, like Linux.  People were provided with a base operating system, use what they need, create what they want and it just keeps growing and getting better.

With the advent of D&D and its complex set of rules, the fireball was “born” within the context of gameplay. Magic Users were typically very weak early level characters in OD&D (A d4 hit points per level will do that to you). Mostly seen as a support class, magic users stood in the back, had some basic buff spells and spells more tailored towards role playing outside of combat. The only attack spell of any consequence was the magic missile (1d6+1). In OD&D, at 5th level, the magic user starts his/her transition into an offensive character, and it begins with the fireball. 

D&D (First Edition) Fireball

Spell Level 3
Duration 1 turn
Range 24"
Explanation/Description: A missile which springs from the finger of the Magic-User. It explodes with a burst radius of 2". In a confined space the Fire Ball will generally conform to the shape of the space (elongate or whatever). The damage caused by the missile will be in proportion to the level of its user. A 6th level Magic-User throws a 6-die missile, a 7th a 7-die missile, and so on. (Note that Fire Balls from Scrolls (see Volume II) and Wand are 6-die missiles and those from Staves are 8-die missiles. Duration: 1 turn. Range: 24" [OD&D Vol-1, p. 25]

At first glance the range of the fireball looks ridiculous. 24” would have you casting a fireball that could travel a maximum of 2 feet. Suicide by fireball seems like a pretty painful way to go. Distance is clarified in the PHB as 1” equaling 10 feet indoors and 10 yards outdoors. AOE is always calculated using indoor distance. So we go from what looks like a real small distance to an incredibly large distance. Being able to cast a fireball the length of two football fields when you are outdoors is quite extreme. I don’t see many opportunities to cast a fireball 240 ft indoors, but the wizard has the ability to do so if needed. A 20 ft radius has not changed since this original version.

AD&D Fireball

Range: 100 feet+1 foot per level
Duration: Instantaneous
AOE: 20 foot radius sphere
Components: V,S (Sulphur & Guano)
Casting time: 3 segments
Saving Throw : 1/2
Explanation/Description: A fireball is an explosive burst of flame, which detonates with a low roar, and delivers damage proportionate to the level of the magic-user who cast it, i.e. 1 six-sided die (d6) for each level of experience of the spell caster. Exception: Magic fireball wands deliver 6 die fireballs (6d6), magic staves with this capability deliver 8 die fireballs, and scroll spells of this type deliver a fireball of from 5 to 10 dice (d6 + 4) of damage. The burst of the fireball does not expend a considerable amount of pressure, and the burst will generally conform to the shape of the area in which it occurs, thus covering an area equal to its normal spherical volume. [The area which is covered by the fireball is a total volume of roughly 33,000 cubic feet (or yards)]. Besides causing damage to creatures, the fireball ignites all combustible materials within its burst radius, and the heat of the fireball will melt soft metals such as gold, copper, silver, etc. Items exposed to the spell's effects must be rolled for to determine if they are affected. Items with a creature which makes its saving throw are considered as unaffected. The magic-user points his or her finger and speaks the range (distance and height) at which the fireball is to burst. A streak flashes from the pointing digit and, unless it impacts upon a material body prior to attaining the prescribed range, flowers into the fireball. If creatures fail their saving throws, they all take full hit point damage from the blast. Those who make saving throws manage to dodge, fall flat or roll aside, taking ½ the full hit point damage - each and every one within the blast area. The material component of this spell is a tiny ball composed of bat guano and sulphur. [1E PHB, p. 73]
For clarification purposes, distance is calculated based on indoor ranges.

Now things get exciting. In AD&D, the fireball is the first “big” damage spell the magic user gets. Prior to the fireball, the only spells that cause any decent damage are the magic missile (d4+1 per level, at 5th level the magic user gets 2 missiles, for a possible max damage of 12 hp) and shocking grasp (1d8+1 per level, at 5th level max possible damage of 13 hp). Fireball at 5th level has a maximum of 20 damage. Not the biggest jump in damage output at 3rd level, but with one additional d6 damage per level, it grows in strength pretty quickly.

AD&D fireball came with some serious drawbacks. We get a big “Fuck You” as now all coins and a wide variety of magic items have to make a save or else be destroyed in some fashion, which is a major headache for not just the players, but also the GM. Do you roll one save for all the items? Or is it one save for each type of items that was in the room, ie. a save for all coins, a save for potions, a save for scrolls, etc? And that’s not to mention that I can’t think of anything that a player hates more than seeing their treasure destroyed. To make matters even worse, the fireball now will “generally conform to the shape of the area in which it occurs, thus covering an area equal to its normal spherical volume”. Casting a fireball now became very hazardous to everyone’s health when cast in a dungeon. A fireball cast in a small corridor will cause blowback and would probably hit the front line PC’s if they are engaged in battle. If I’m the front line fighter, at 5th level I would have a maximum of 50 hp. So if one of my own party members hit me for almost 1/2 of my hp, I’d be pretty pissed. Not only do you have the chance of causing some pretty good damage to your party members, but you’ll melt all the coin and burn up all those scrolls you’ve been looking for. To top it all off, there is a lot of math when it comes to cubic feet and room dimensions, and everyone knows that D&D is better when you add in huge amounts of math.

3e Fireball

Evocation [Fire]
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: 20-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes
A fireball spell is a burst of flame that detonates with a low roar and deals 1d6 points of fire damage per caster level (maximum 10d6) to all creatures within the area. Unattended objects also take this damage. The explosion creates almost no pressure. 
The character determines the range (distance and height) at which the fireball is to burst. A glowing, pea-sized bead streaks from the character and, unless it impacts upon a material body or solid barrier prior to attaining the prescribed range, blossoms into the fireball at that point (an early impact results in an early detonation). If the character attempts to send the bead through a narrow passage, such as through an arrow slit, the character must "hit" the opening with a ranged touch attack, or else the bead strikes the barrier and detonates prematurely.
The fireball sets fire to combustibles and damages objects in the area. It can melt metals with a low melting point, such as lead, gold, copper, silver, or bronze. If the damage caused to an interposing barrier shatters or breaks through it, the fireball may continue beyond the barrier if the area permits; otherwise it stops at the barrier just as any other spell effect does. [3E SRD]

3rd Edition fireball finds itself as a great way of dishing out some damage, with the same “Fuck You” trap that it had in the earlier edition with low melting point metals melting away. At this point, I’m pretty sure that Gygax and Co. just don’t like fun. Especially when you realize that this casting of the spell caps out at 10d6 where as the older versions didn’t have a cap on power.

Range scaling stays the same -  100'+10'/level underground, and then multiplying that by a factor of 4. While we assumed this would get nerfed, the fireball kept its massive range of the spell. There is also clarification on what happens if there’s a chance the fireball would hit something on the way to its intended target. A ranged touch attack must now be made. Definitions from the 3e PHB are as follows.

Ranged touch attack: A touch attack made at range, as opposed to a melee touch attack. See touch attack.
Touch attack: An attack in which the attacker must connect with an opponent, but does not need to penetrate armor. Touch attacks may be either melee or ranged. The target’s armor bonus, shield bonus, and natural armor bonus (including any enhancement bonuses to those values) do not apply to AC against a touch attack.

How one would determine the AC of an arrow slit, I’m not quite sure.  The spell specifically states that the player must “hit the opening”, not the intended target behind the arrow slit. So, the GM will need to figure out what the AC is of the arrow slit (have fun with that Stephen) and on a successful attack roll, the player’s fireball would pass through the slit and hit that poor kobold.

Now let’s say that kobold is standing in a small 10X10 room.  Does that mean the effects of the fireball will shoot out of the arrow slit?  It sure will, curling out the arrow slit along the wall and into the room for an additional 10 feet in all direction.  So once again, we hope no one is standing to close to the arrow slit. 

4e Fireball

Wizard Attack 5
A globe of orange flame coalesces in your hand. You hurl it at your enemies, and it explodes on impact. Daily ✦ Arcane, Fire, Implement
Standard Action
Area
burst 3 within 20 squares
Target: Each creature in burst
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.
Miss: Half damage.

Whew… That’s a lot of new words and not much to go off of. We are going to start right below the brief description with Daily. In this edition of DnD, there are spells you can cast once per day, Fireball being one of those. That’s pretty easy, now let’s jump into something a little more complex, like Burst!

But first: 4e is a different style of DnD that many people talk down on, I am not one of those people. 4e has a unique style that really lets players feel like super bad-ass heroes, and one of the ways it does that is by describing everything as if you are on a battle mat with a 1” square grid.

Burst is a new mechanic in DnD, but it’s actually not. All Burst means is that when the spell goes off, the point of origin square plus the surrounding squares on all sides of the origin square will be affected, this is up to a certain number(like 3). Following Burst is “within 20 squares” which just tells you how far away you can cast the spell away from you. So when a spell says: Burst 3 within 20; the spell’s area of effect is 7 squares(35’) by 7 squares, and you can cast it up to 100’ away from you.

The rest of the fireball descriptor is pretty self explanatory and there isn’t much left to talk about except for that damage. And boy, that 3d6 + Int Mod is pretty lacking when it comes to damage, especially for a daily spell. At least they didn’t rub salt in the wound and make all that gold melt away.

5e Fireball

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 150 feet
Components: V S M (A tiny ball of bat guano and sulfur)
Duration: Instantaneous
Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard
A bright streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame. Each creature in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
The fire spreads around corners. It ignites flammable objects in the area that aren't being worn or carried.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

There’s lots of talk about the fireball in 5e out there on the web. One of the best articles in my option on the fireball can be found at D&D beyond. Yes, the fireball is overpowered, but it is done so on purpose. It is the most iconic spell in D&D and has always been overpowered in some fashion, either in damage or distance. But that’s what makes the fireball.

I am not going to begrudge the wizard the fireball and its massive damage. The poor wizard has been hiding in the background until this point, buffing the other heroes and casting their magic missile. Now at 5th level, they have this spell that can immediately turn the tide the a battle.

It should also be noted that it specifically stated that all flammable objects laying around will burn. So let’s hope those spell scrolls aren’t in plain sight, or the wizard just screwed himself over.

So the fireball has been around forever and has always been and shall always be an incredibly powerful spell. That’s how it should be. Enjoy it, embrace it and tweak it as you see fit. Finally, make sure the wizard has somewhere safe to put all that bat shit they have to carry around.



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“I wish for a pony, a crown, and a Staff of the Magi.”

The Wish spell is one of the original spells in D&D. Some people love the spell, some people hate the spell, and most of us spend our time figuring out how to get wording of our wish exactly right so the DM doesn’t screw us over. Wish is probably the most discussed and argued over spell in D&D, since what you can and cannot do is the subject of endless debate. No two DM’s we have played with have allowed the wish spell to do the same thing. While the spell description gives some guidelines as to the specific things that can happen, the DM has probably more latitude with this spell than any other.

Stephen would like everyone to know he has 3 rules for Wish:
One sentence, must start with the words “I Wish for…”, and be said in 6 seconds.
In return, he promises to his players to not be an asshole and only manipulate their wish for the sake of the game and story.

Chris thinks this is all bullshit.

How did wish get this way? Let’s take a look at the Wish spell throughout the history of D&D

OD&D

There was no wish spell in the original D&D (and many people probably would have preferred it stayed that way). The first mention of the wish spell was presented in the Greyhawk supplement 1, released in 1976. The wish was basically split into two parts - limited wish and wish.

Limited Wish
7th Level Magic User
A spell which alters reality past, present, or future, but only within limited bounds. It cannot create or bring any form of treasure, for example, and only a portion of a wish might actually occur. (See DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE, page 33, Three Wishes.)

Wish
9th Level Magic User
The same spell as found in a Ring of Wishes (DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE, page 33). Using a Wish Spell, however, requires so great a conjuration that the user will be unable to do anything further magically for 2-8 days.

The referenced wish information above is from the Ring of Three Wishes, which states the following:

Ring of Three Wishes (DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE)As with any wishes, the wishes granted by the ring must be of limited power in order to maintain balance in the game. This requires the utmost discretion on the part of the referee. Typically, greedy characters will request more wishes, for example, as one of their wishes. The referee should then put that character into an endless closed time loop, moving him back to the time he first obtained the wish ring. Again, a wish for some powerful item could be fulfilled without benefit to the one wishing (“I wish for a Mirror of Life Trapping!”, and the referee then places the character inside one which is all his own!). Wishes that unfortunate adventures had never happened should be granted. Clues can be given when wishes for powerful items or great treasure are made.

Lots of information here, but at the same time, so much more is left unsaid. Limited wish is more of an alter time spell. Based on the description, you cannot expect to receive much of anything physical, such as magic items or gold. But by being able to change the timeline, here’s a few examples that we can think of that limited wish could be used for

Past - Change the outcome of a fight. Change what a NPC said to you. Go back to a time before a player died

Present - Change your location to a different town, continent or even possibly plane. Change the outcome of a saving throw, ability check or attack roll.

Future - Change the probable outcome of fight that is going poorly. Your status within society, such as making yourself a knight or noble.

The ability to change future is probably the most interesting, and most complicated. Changing the future has the most potential for being a workaround to get something resembling wealth. By changing the future you might decide to make yourself king of the land. By doing so, one might assume that you could have all the riches you could ever want, not to mention a castle, armed guards at your disposal, and a beautiful queen at your side.

This is where Gary G. has decided to add his usual “fuck you” to OD&D rules. He spends more time giving the DM suggestions on how to screw over the character’s wish than he does describing the actual spell. Sure, the basic concept of what a wish is seems pretty straight forward, but in reality it’s not. Why just give examples on how to mess with people? It’s one thing to maintain balance, it’s another to actively they to screw the player over.

So, using the example above of changing the future, the DM may say “sure, you can be a king” but based on how Gary describes the spell, the DM may decide to have you constantly under siege from neighboring kingdoms so you are spending all your money on paying your troops, weapons and castle fortifications. Oh, and your wife was from an arranged marriage and she is more of a troll than a blushing bride.

The Wish spell also relies on the rules set in the Ring of Three Wishes, but has no limitations except for spell exhaustion. Based on the information given (or lack thereof), the player can now ask for pretty much anything. But once again, the focus seems to be on screwing the player over, regardless of what they wish for.

2e

In 2e, the spells mostly stay the same but without the helpful tips on how to screw over your players. For the sake of time we will be skipping out on the Limited Wish spell from here on out.

Wish (Conjuration/Summoning)
Range: Unlimited
Components: V
Duration: Special
Casting Time: Special
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: Special
The Wish spell is a more potent version of a limited wish. If it is used to alter reality with respect to damage sustained by a party, to bring a dead creature to life, or to escape from a difficult situation by lifting the spellcaster (and his party) from one place to another, it will not cause the wizard any disability. Other forms of wishes, however, cause the spellcaster to weaken (-3 on Strength) and require 2d4 days of bed rest due to the stresses the wish places upon time, space. and his body. Regardless of what is wished for, the exact tenninology of the wish spell is likely to be carried out. Casting a wish spell ages the caster five years.
This discretionary power of the DM is necessary in order to maintain game balance. As wishing another creature dead would be grossly unfair, for example, your DM might well advance the spellcaster to a future period in which the creature is no longer alive, effectively putting the wishing character out of the campaign.

As far as spell descriptions go, this is pretty quick and to the point. It is interesting that it makes no mention of copying the effects of other spells without sadness visited upon the body of the spellcaster as later editions make a note of, but it does give several things a Wizard could wish for without disabilities like: healing, resurrection and teleportation (or if you are a real hardass and going by the specific wording of the spell: Levitate).

We do appreciate the last paragraph letting the DM(and players) know that this spell is complete bonkers and asking for anything that might affect the story or be a huge McGuffin for the party may be adjusted to fit your Wish casting, even if it isn’t what you may specifically want. This latitude give the DM a power over the spell that, quite frankly, is needed. Wish is a game breaker spell, and if the player chooses to fall back on RAW, this simple paragraph lets the DM rein in a player’s crazier desires. This caveat is included, in some fashion, for all future editions.

3e/3.5e

As with all things 3.5, things get a lot more complex, and it may not always be for the better. Hold on tight, this is a lot of information.

Wish
Universal
Level: Sor/Wiz 9
Components: V, XP
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: See text
Target, Effect, or Area:See text
Duration:See text
Saving Throw:See text
Spell Resistance:Yes
Wish is the mightiest spell a wizard or sorcerer can cast. By simply speaking aloud, you can alter reality to better suit you.
Even wish, however, has its limits.

A wish can produce any one of the following effects.
• Duplicate any wizard or sorcerer spell of 8th level or lower, provided the spell is not of a school prohibited to you.
• Duplicate any other spell of 6th level or lower, provided the spell is not of a school prohibited to you.
• Duplicate any wizard or sorcerer spell of 7th level or lower even if it’s of a prohibited school.
• Duplicate any other spell of 5th level or lower even if it’s of a prohibited school.
• Undo the harmful effects of many other spells, such as geas/quest or insanity.
• Create a nonmagical item of up to 25,000 gp in value.
• Create a magic item, or add to the powers of an existing magic item.
• Grant a creature a +1 inherent bonus to an ability score. Two to five wish spells cast in immediate succession can grant a creature a +2 to +5 inherent bonus to an ability score (two wishes for a +2 inherent bonus, three for a +3 inherent bonus, and so on). Inherent bonuses are instantaneous, so they cannot be dispelled. Note: An inherent bonus may not exceed +5 for a single ability score, and inherent bonuses to a particular ability score do not stack, so only the best one applies.
• Remove injuries and afflictions. A single wish can aid one creature per caster level, and all subjects are cured of the same kind of affliction. For example, you could heal all the damage you and your companions have taken, or remove all poison effects from everyone in the party, but not do both with the same wish. A wish can never restore the experience point loss from casting a spell or the level or Constitution loss from being raised from the dead.
• Revive the dead. A wish can bring a dead creature back to life by duplicating a resurrection spell. A wish can revive a dead creature whose body has been destroyed, but the task takes two wishes, one to recreate the body and another to infuse the body with life again. A wish cannot prevent a character who was brought back to life from losing an experience level.
• Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.
• Undo misfortune. A wish can undo a single recent event. The wish forces a reroll of any roll made within the last round (including your last turn). Reality reshapes itself to accommodate the new result. For example, a wish could undo an opponent’s successful save, a foe’s successful critical hit (either the attack roll or the critical roll), a friend’s failed save, and so on. The reroll, however, may be as bad as or worse than the original roll. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.

You may try to use a wish to produce greater effects than these, but doing so is dangerous. (The wish may pervert your intent into a literal but undesirable fulfillment or only a partial fulfillment.)
Duplicated spells allow saves and spell resistance as normal (but save DCs are for 9th-level spells).
Material Component: When a wish duplicates a spell with a material component that costs more than 10,000 gp, you must provide that component.
XP Cost: The minimum XP cost for casting wish is 5,000 XP. When a wish duplicates a spell that has an XP cost, you must pay 5,000 XP or that cost, whichever is more. When a wish creates or improves a magic item, you must pay twice the normal XP cost for crafting or improving the item, plus an additional 5,000 XP.

Whew. That’s a whole lot of rules and stipulations, and my least favorite part about it… It costs XP to cast! We suppose that is one way to keep your players in check, but still, that’s a hefty price to pay for something that the DM is going to corrupt and twist your words on.

But… its probably for the best that we add a few rules to the Wish spell and limit its power. You aren’t a god after all, just a mortal with a nasty spell that can change the shape of the world and time itself. You know, a normal tuesday for an adventurer.

We really like that we add some limitations to the Wish spell after years and editions of unlimited power that the DM is instructed to mess with. The players now have a clear set of things suggested that can can/should do. And while they do have the opportunity to try and use the spell for something greater and more powerful than actions listed, the DM is again given some latitude to make sure the players don’t do something completely outlandish.

4e

Once again, 4e follows none of the rules as the previous editions. The Wish spells has been removed from list of spells available to players, and has become more of a plot device for the DM to use during the campaign.

And that is fucking awesome.

For all the bashing that 4e has taken, this is arguably the best thing I have seen in 4e (ok, there are a bunch of really good things in 4e, but this easily my favorite). Taking the ability to cast Wish out of hands of players alleviates so many issues and give the DM the latitude to make a wish something really important. And isn’t that the whole point of a wish?

5e

Wish
9 conjuration 
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous
Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard

Wish is the mightiest spell a mortal creature can cast. By simply speaking aloud, you can alter the very foundations of reality in accord with your desires.

The basic use of this spell is to duplicate any other spell of 8th level or lower. You don’t need to meet any requirements in that spell, including costly components. The spell simply takes effect.

Alternatively, you can create one of the following effects of your choice:
• You create one object of up to 25,000 gp in value that isn’t a magic item. The object can be no more than 300 feet in any dimension, and it appears in an unoccupied space you can see on the ground.
• You allow up to twenty creatures that you can see to regain all hit points, and you end all effects on them described in the greater restoration spell.
• You grant up to ten creatures that you can see resistance to a damage type you choose.
• You grant up to ten creatures you can see immunity to a single spell or other magical effect for 8 hours. For instance, you could make yourself and all your companions immune to a lich’s life drain attack.
• You undo a single recent event by forcing a reroll of any roll made within the last round (including your last turn). Reality reshapes itself to accommodate the new result. For example, a wish spell could undo an opponent’s successful save, a foe’s critical hit, or a friend’s failed save. You can force the reroll to be made with advantage or disadvantage, and you can choose whether to use the reroll or the original roll.

You might be able to achieve something beyond the scope of the above examples. State your wish to the GM as precisely as possible. The GM has great latitude in ruling what occurs in such an instance; the greater the wish, the greater the likelihood that something goes wrong. This spell might simply fail, the effect you desire might only be partly achieved, or you might suffer some unforeseen consequence as a result of how you worded the wish. For example, wishing that a villain were dead might propel you forward in time to a period when that villain is no longer alive, effectively removing you from the game. Similarly, wishing for a legendary magic item or artifact might instantly transport you to the presence of the item’s current owner.

The stress of casting this spell to produce any effect other than duplicating another spell weakens you. After enduring that stress, each time you cast a spell until you finish a long rest, you take 1d10 necrotic damage per level of that spell. This damage can’t be reduced or prevented in any way. In addition, your Strength drops to 3, if it isn’t 3 or lower already, for 2d4 days. For each of those days that you spend resting and doing nothing more than light activity, your remaining recovery time decreases by 2 days. Finally, there is a 33 percent chance that you are unable to cast wish ever again if you suffer this stress.

At last we reach 5e which does a good job of taking what 3e has to offer and putting a spin on it. We have limits on the Wish spell (good) and a pretty big con, a 33% chance of never casting Wish again. Whew, that’ll put your wish for a pony on hold when you may never be able to cast your Hail Mary spell again.

Once again, more detail on what a character can and cannot do is specified in the description of the spell. Also, the penalties now aren’t quite as harsh as the previous versions. The wording allows the DM to be creative is how he/she can handle some of the more absurd requests. This makes it interesting and challenging for both the player and the DM.

In conclusion, the Wish spell can be a complete game breaker, but only if the players try to pull some stupid shit and the DM allows it. Wish can be a great spell, as it gives the spell caster the ability to create their own fun and/or get the party of some deep shit. Our final thoughts on the spell are below.

Stephen - I like, as in older editions, the limitless potential a Wish spell can create, but sometimes a player is willing to ruin their fun by wishing for something ridiculous, like being a god or that the BBEG dies. GMs need to be on their toes when their players get access to Wish.

Chris - As far as I am concerned, Stephen should be worried if I ever get a chance to cast Wish, cause I’m finally getting my War Elephant mount, and there is nothing he can do about it.

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Dump Stat Adventures by Chris Curran - 4M ago

A few weeks ago we wrote an article about the Good & the Bad, two classic monsters in D&D. I apparently forgot the Ugly (you know, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, an old Clint Eastwood movie). By request, I will now correct that error and do the ugly.

The Ugly - Intellect Devourer

There are any number of ugly monsters in D&D. (See - Owlbear). To me, the Intellect Devourer is one of the ugliest out there. It’s a brain on feet and that’s not a metaphor. It is literally a brain on feet.

In case it hasn’t sunk in yet, let me repeat that. It’s a fucking brain on feet. My nightmares have never been the same.

The hideous and gag-inducing illustrations of the Intellect Devourer haven’t changed much over the editions, though the biggest difference is that in the earlier editions their feet were more claw like, and in 5e they look more like paws… yippy. Other than that it’s pretty much the same, though even that is enough to haunt me.

This ugly ass monster has gone through some interesting buffs and nerfs throughout its history in D&D. We will be focusing on the beginning creatures (from AD&D) and the 5e version that exists in today’s game. I will be listing some of the more interesting changes below. If we have forgotten something, please let us know!

  1. The original Intellect Devourer was listed as a medium creature, while in 5e it’s a tiny aberration. This may seem like a minor detail, but hear me out. It makes total sense to me that in 5e, the tiny aberration initiates and wins an Intelligence contest then houses himself where the victims brain used to be. Tiny creatures can feasibly fit into a medium humanoid skull. So explain to me how, in AD&D, a medium size creature can “house them inside the mindless creature”. (AD&D MM, pg 55). Seems like a stretch to me, and if we are being realistic, it should look a lot like that one movie Scanners.

  2. Claw attack - In AD&D the Devourer can attack up to four times a turn with each of his claws. They only do 1d4 damage each, but still, four melee attacks each round is respectable. 5e allows only one such claw attack per turn (2d4+2 dmg, a minor damage per attack buff), but now it can multi attack using its Devour Intellect ability.

  3. Devour Intellect vs. Psionic Attacks - The main attack of the the Devourer is its Devour Intellect ability. The target must make a DC12 Intelligence save or take 2d10 psychic damage. But that’s not the worst of it…not by far. On a failed save, the DM rolls 3d6. If that total is equal to or more than the target’s Intelligence, their Int drops to 0 and they are stunned until they regain at least 1 point of Intelligence. Now they are the perfect target for the Body Thief ability. This greatly differs from the world of AD&D (I could do a whole series of articles on the world of psionics in AD&D, and I’d probably still not understand completely what the hell Gygax and company were trying to say). Basically in AD&D, the Devourer can attack using his psionic abilities: Ego Whip or Id Insinuation. Used against creatures with little to no psionic strength (and few players had any back then, cause no one ever thought about it), the Ego Whip causes Idiocy, which causes the target to lose psionic ability forever, which is no great loss when they probably don’t have any to begin with. Id Insinuation is more deadly, but equally confusing. A successful Id Insinuation attack causes the target to become a Robot, meaning the victim’s mind is under the Devourer’s control for up to 2-8 WEEKS! That’s seriously messed up and it begs the larger question: Does the Devourer want to take over the victim by inhabiting its body, or use that victim as their personal servant/meat shield?

  4. Resistances and Immunities - So here is a huge nerf from the original Intellect Devourer to our current incarnation. The 5e Devourer is resistant to most all non magical attacks, and is immune to blindness. Nothing great, so if you can get in close enough without having your brain eaten, the Devourer will fall pretty quickly (It’s AC is 12, HP 22). I can understand the logic behind this. The front liners in most parties usually have the lowest Intelligence.. They make the perfect victim for the Devourer, who can then turn the victim against his own party members. Fun times, at least for the DM (looking at you Stephen). In AD&D it states that “normal weapons and most spells have no effect on these monsters. Magical weapons +3 or more will cause 1 point of damage upon them when they hit. Bright light will drive them off…fireballs serve as only bright light…lightning bolts cause them some pain and small damage, 1 point of damage per die of bolt strength.” Seriously… What. The. Fuck. That’s crazy, not only is it destroying my psyche, but I can’t even kill the ugly monster. I get that the original Devourer was created so that psionic attacks could be used, but again, NO ONE EVER USED PSIONICS. It was such a little known ability and the guidelines were so unclear, most people just stayed away from it altogether. So the long and the short of it was, if your dick of a DM threw some of these little brain eaters your way, you were screwed. (And one final note - the Death Spell only had a 25% chance of killing one).

So there we have it. Sure, there are some other minor tweaks, but those are the big changes we found in our research.

Intellect Devourers can actually be fun to fight in 5e. Lots of times you don’t even know you’re fighting one until you kill the host and this disgusting little brain on legs jumps out. And once you are done screaming like a little schoolgirl, you best hit it with your sword and pray that that fireball actually killed the creature and not it finding a new home in your pal’s cranium pan.

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